Hair loss could be your main problem, or it could be a symptom of something else. Losing significant amounts of hair doesn’t mean that your fate is sealed.
Besides the threat of androgenetic alopecia, here are 5 potential reasons why your hair is shedding at an alarming rate.
1. You may not be eating right
Sometimes it’s what you eat, or the lack thereof, that becomes your hair’s undoing. This is usually the case if you’re on a restrictive diet.
While excessive hair loss due to nutritional deficiency rarely happens, it can be triggered by our eating habits. When you are nutritionally deficient in several components like vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids, your hair suffers. Its growth and structure are affected, and some may even experience premature graying.
So, you might have to check what’s on your plate, if you want to keep what’s on your head. As some of us commit to certain diets, we usually jump in without really knowing how it’s done causing you to miss out on key nutrients. To avoid severe nutrient deficiencies, discuss a new diet with your doctor for a thorough assessment and proper advice on how to correct your nutritional intake.
It’s not just about switching up your diet, rather it’s focusing on getting the right nutrients in the right amounts. For instance, vitamin A is recognised for its role in the optimal function of hair follicles, however, high levels have also been linked to hair loss. It’s all about striking a healthy balance which you can easily achieve with professional help.
2. Skin disorders may have caused your scalp to suffer
Certain infectious agents that affect the scalp can also result in hair loss. These infections are usually fungal in nature (e.g. ringworm, tinea capitis, piedra), but some are caused by oil buildup that can inflame the hair follicles (e.g. folliculitis).
Usually, these conditions are associated with persistent itching, scaliness, or inflammation. The affected areas of the scalp will suffer patchy hair loss which can be embarrassing for those affected. These conditions may linger for some time – which can cause distress – but this will only be temporary. These effects can be reversed with proper treatment.
3. Stress is getting the best of you
Stress may also be to blame for your hair loss because it pushes a large number of hair follicles into the resting phase (telogen effluvium). It may be a broken relationship, a death in the family, financial concerns, or being constantly frazzled by work elevates stress and anxiety levels.
It is marked by significant hair fall as the follicles cease to produce new hair, and it primarily affects the hairs around the temples. There is gradual shedding, wherein you’ll notice more strands on your pillow, your comb, or down the drain. In some cases, this may result in hairless patches all over your head.
In some cases, stress may also trigger certain mannerisms that are harmful to the hair. One of these behaviours, which is also classified as a psychological disorder, is compulsive and repetitive hair pulling (trichotillomania) as a coping mechanism. If unmanaged, this will lead to localised hair loss. Besides scalp hair, the eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard are also vulnerable areas for plucking.
Fortunately, stress-related hair loss doesn’t have to be permanent. Besides your own coping mechanisms, there are behavioural therapies, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications that can help manage anxiety and restore hair growth.
4. Physical trauma
Physical trauma, whether from surgery or an injury, also creates significant stress to the body. On a cellular level, your system responds to trauma by redirecting nutrients to affected tissues or vital organs as a coping response. Nutrients are transferred away from the hair bulb to the injured area, which can impair hair growth. This triggers the hair cells to go into the resting phase causing it to fall out.
In some cases, the injury can be so severe that it dramatically affects the physical structure of the scalp – as the case may be with chemical injuries, burns, or surgery. Incidents like this cause damage to the lower layers of the skin where the hair follicles lie and result in scarring. Depending on the extent of damage, corrective treatments like hair transplant surgery can cover up affected areas.
5. Dramatic weight loss over a short period of time
In relation to not eating right, “crash” or “fad” diets will not only cause you to lose weight but your hair as well. Some diets are popular because they give results in a short span of time. But, most of these regimens run the risk of depriving the body of enough iron, proteins and other nutritional intakes that are essential to hair growth. The body will also recognise this as a stressful situation, which only adds to the physical burden.
In some cases, a sudden drop in weight might also be linked to a disease or condition. For instance, Hyperthyroidism can result in unintentional weight loss even if the patient loads up on calories. Chronic diarrhoea related to inflammatory bowel diseases can also rapidly shift your weight downwards and cause hair thinning.
Therefore, a likely cause of hair loss with dramatic weight loss is telogen effluvium. However, as mentioned earlier, this is not a life sentence because hair growth returns to normal after a 2-3-month resting phase. However, it’s also important that underlying causes can be resolved with professional help to relieve your body from hair-damaging stress.
Here’s why you shouldn’t make second guesses on your hair loss
Hair loss is indeed a multifactorial phenomenon, and it’s not always about your genetic predisposition. Baldness doesn’t always have to be your final destination because hair loss may have stemmed from a reversible condition.
If you want to address this problem proactively, seeking professional help is an important first step. The right treatment follows a proper diagnosis, and you’ll need a consultation to undergo the necessary tests to narrow down the potential cause.
If your hair is falling at an alarming rate, get in touch with us and schedule an evaluation with Dr. Tyng Tan today.
About Dr Tyng Tan
Dr. Tan Tyng Yuan, MBBS completed her graduate and medical education in the United Kingdom over a span of 10 years.