From Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin; Jennifer Aniston to Oprah, there is no question that, at least for women, hair is a defining point in personal style and self-image. And one reason why so many women panic at the thought of seeing a little more hair than usual on their brush, in the sink and down the shower drain.
Those fears do not surface unsupported. Each year more women are forced to come to terms with possibilities of serious, even permanent, hair loss. It is a growing problem, and one not restricted to the elderly.
"I have seen women as young as 15 or 16 develop hair loss problems -- it's not common, but it's also not that rare," says Ted Daly, MD, a dermatologist from
Nassau University Medical Center on Long Island, who specializes in the treatment of female hair loss.
There are many more causes of hair loss in women than what men experience.
To understand what exactly causes a woman to lose her hair, it’s important to know a little about how hair grows.
The average woman is born with about 100,000 hair follicles on her head, which she keeps for the rest of her life. Most women with healthy hair lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day that will grow back on its own. But if you’re one of the 30 million women in America who experience hair loss, you may be losing more than 150 hairs a day; hair that doesn’t grow back as thick and healthy as it once was, or may not grow back at all.
Symptom of a Disease Rather Than an End Diagnosis
There could be an underlying health condition that may be causing hair loss and when treated, hair will return to its original fullness. And there are cases in which a disease is treated but hair loss may continue. Health issues could be as simple as fungal infection or hormones or hypothyroidism.
One of the causes of hair loss in women is Alopecia Areata, a disease that affects almost 2% of the population in the United States, is a type of hair loss that occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles. This type of hair loss appears in varying degrees of severity; from small, round patches that re-grow without medical treatment, to chronic, extensive hair loss, involving all hair on the scalp and/or body. This type of hair loss affects both genders equally and can occur at any age, though most often in children and young adults.
Similar to male pattern baldness, 'androgenic alopecia' in women, also referred to as female pattern hair loss - a broader term that encompasses a variety of causes, some directly linked to an excess of testosterone, and some of which are not.
Indeed, the science of female balding is still largely misunderstood, there is evidence that many other types of enzymes, as well as hormone receptors and blockers, may be at work. One clue that there is a true difference between male and female balding is the pattern in which the hair loss occurs.
Female pattern balding radiates around the whole head, thinning throughout, while men commonly lose hair on places like the temple, crown and back of head. Not coincidentally, the hormone and enzyme receptor sites are also different in varying areas of the scalp. Another important difference: While balding in men is often the result of genetic predisposition coupled with age, in women, it can happen at any time.