Everyone wants a full, healthy head of hair, which is why hair loss can be devastating. Unfortunately, 85 percent of men and 40 percent of women lose their hair at one time or another. How well and how fully hair grows may be dependent on the health. A number of health conditions can interrupt the normal cycle of hair growth, resulting in lost locks.
The Three Phases of Hair Growth
Each hair on the head goes through its own growth cycle. The normal cycle of hair growth is made up of three phases. When hair is growing, it is in the anagen phase, which can last from two to six years. Then, hair enters the catagen phase, which lasts approximately two weeks. During this phase, the hair follicle gets smaller and growth stops. Hair then rests for a period of two to four months, known as the telogen phase, before falling out and being replaced with new hair.
Normal Hair Loss
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair daily. Unusually excessive hair in a brush or more than normal on the pillow or shower drain may indicate excessive hair loss. Women tend to lose hair on the top of the scalp, and they may find that their part is widening, while men often notice hair receding from the forehead or crown.
Sudden loss of hair is sometimes caused by a medical condition, and proper treatment can help. The following medical problems can result in hair loss:
- Addison’s disease – destruction of the adrenal gland affects production of certain hormones that may result in hair loss
- Celiac disease – damage to the intestinal lining caused by this disease affects absorption of nutrients that contribute to healthy hair growth
- Diabetes – this disease can lead to alopecia areata, a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles
- Hodgkin’s disease – symptoms of this cancer of the lymphatic system can include alopecia
- Hyperandrogenism – a hair-thinning condition in women caused by excessive levels of androgens like testosterone
- Hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid gland affects hormone production, which can contribute to hair loss
- Lupus – can cause hair follicles to become brittle and hair to fall out in patches
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – can lead to hair loss in women due to an imbalance of male and female sex hormones.
- Scleroderma – this disease of the connective tissue causes hardening of the skin, which can affect the scalp
- Syphilis – Some people in the latter stages of this venereal disease experience hair loss
Finding excess hair on the pillow or in the shower can be distressing, but there may be an easy fix. People who are experiencing abnormal hair loss benefit from a visit to a medical professional. By taking a health history and doing blood work, doctors can rule out disease as a cause for hair loss and look for other contributors.