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What conditions cause hair loss?

Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
Alopecia areata is a condition where you see round patches of hair loss but with no scarring. It can occur on any part of the body. For some unknown reason the body mounts an immune attack against certain hair follicles. Sometimes, fortunately rarely, it attacks all the hair follicles. In these cases all the hair on the body from head to toe is lost. It can occur at any age, ethnicity or gender. When it occurs in a patchy fashion, injections of cortisone into the areas often help the hair grow back. While we don’t know the cause, the general consensus is that stress is an exacerbating factor.

Another type of hair loss is due to polycystic ovary disease. This condition is slowly being better defined and treated. There are several signs and symptoms such as irregular periods, excessive weight gain, and severe acne among others. Women with PCO are at higher risk for diabetes and other medical concerns and should be treated and followed regularly. Treatment usually involves oral contraceptives, and other drugs to balance the hormones. Sometimes medicines used for people with type 2 diabetes are also used as treatment for PCO.

A much more common type of hair loss is called androgenic alopecia. This is a genetic form of hair loss and is as common in women as it is in men, although the pattern is different for women than what we typically see in male pattern hair loss. Women don’t tend to go completely bald as men do. We keep the frontal hairline and thin out right behind it. There are two types of general patterns that we see. One is called patterned where the loss is mostly at the top of the scalp and the other is called non- patterned where the loss is more diffuse.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.