What is the medical definition of hair loss beyond normal hair loss on a daily basis?
Hair loss, (also termed alopecia) may affect men and women of all ages. The most common form of hair loss is Androgenetic alopecia, or hair specific pattern baldness.
The temporal loss of hair for men and central thinning of hair for women are the most common areas where hair loss is noticed. It may be more noticeable with aging and may or may not have a specific pathological cause. Telogen effluvium is hair loss following an emotional or physical stressor. Alopecia areata is associated with a medical cause such as an autoimmune condition. Tinea capitis is hair loss related to a skin infection such as ring worm.
Normal hair loss can equal up to 100 hairs per day lost and can increase with shampooing. Hair follicles are in different stages of production or rest during the cycle of hair growth. Many factors can influence how much hair is grown and how many follicles continue to produce hair shafts. Longer hair and damaged hair may break before the scalp, making it appear that the loss is greater than it really is.
Hair coming out in clumps leaving large patches of baldness would be considered abnormal. Hair coming out as several single strands is considered normal if not accompanied by a medical cause.
Is hair loss as a medical issue defined by the slightly abnormal definition or the thinning hair definition above?
Hair loss as a medical issue may be more defined by the pattern of hair loss, the extent of the loss, and the focal area of baldness. Central thinning may show as an M shaped thinning at the temples and crown and can be normal. A “moth-eaten” appearance on the other hand can mean the client has had syphilis. A 70-80 percent of hair loss can be related to chemotherapy while patchy baldness and thinning can be related to autoimmune conditions and thyroid disorders. Further testing should be investigated when a client has unexplained hair loss.
Are there any studies that show that experiencing hair loss could indicate other issues, and is autoimmune one of them?
There are several studies researching hair loss according to the Academy of American Family Physicians. The research looks at both hormonal and biological reasons for hair loss and then matches solutions to the causes. Autoimmune conditions are at the forefront of reasons for hair loss and consequently hormone modifiers are at the frontline of treatment options. Hormone replacement therapy, Androgen blockers, and oral contraceptives, or steroids are types of treatments for alopecia caused by autoimmune and hormone based hair loss. Rogaine and Retin-A are at the core of biological modifiers for hair loss related to genetic factors or heredity.
Are there certain autoimmune conditions where hair loss is a common symptom?
The immune system fails to tell the difference between foreign invaders and normal cells then an autoimmune condition results. There have been 80-100 specific autoimmune conditions identified that result in a wide variety of symptoms and hair loss or thinning is a commonly reported. Alopecia areata, where the autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, affects about 2 percent of the population. Lupus and thyroid conditions are other autoimmune conditions where hair loss is a significant symptom.
Questions to ask your doctor:
- Are there medications that I can take to prevent hair loss?
- How much hair loss can I expect with my condition?
- How will I tell if my hair loss is normal or a symptom of a more serious condition?
- Will my hair loss improve when my autoimmune condition improves?
- Will steroids help or hinder my hair loss?
About the Author
Terri Forehand is a critical care nurse and freelance writer. She is the author The Cancer Prayer Book and a soon to be released picture book titled The ABC’s of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. She writes from her home where she lives with her husband and an array of rescue dogs nestled in the hills of Brown County, Indiana.