Dermatologists care for hair, as well as skin issues, including hair loss. Many events in women's lives can lead to thinning hair, such as childbirth, menopause, illness, and periods of emotional stress. In some cases hair loss is temporary and can resolve on its own. Dermatologists can determine the cause of thinning hair and plan a course of action to treat the problem.
Are You Really Losing Your Hair?
Noticing a larger quantity of hair left behind on your brush, pillow, or shower can be alarming. However, an increase in the amount of hair you shed does not mean you are losing your hair. It is common to temporarily shed an excessive amount of hair while new hair continues to grow. True hair loss occurs when hair growth comes to a halt.
Physical and emotional stressors can trigger shedding. Serious illness, high fever, surgery, and mental or emotional stress--such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss--can all cause hair to become thinner. This condition, called telogen effluvium, is temporary, and hair will return to normal after the stressor is removed or resolved.
Changing hormone levels can also effect hair shedding. After a woman gives birth, her estrogen level drops, which results in temporary hair loss beginning about two months post-partum. Normal hair fullness is usually restored six to nine months later. Hair loss during menopause is also usually temporary. However, as women age, their hair will not completely grow back to its former fullness. Birth control pills can also cause excess shedding, either while taking them or after stopping.
A diet too low in protein or iron can lead to thinning hair. On the other hand, a diet too high in vitamin A can also result in thinner hair. Amending your diet will allow hair to regrow normally. Excess hair shedding is a common occurrence about three to six months after losing a significant amount of weight, but adequate nutrition will help hair grow back on its own.
Sometimes thinning hair is a symptom of another condition affecting the body. If your hair loss cannot be explained by a recent stressful event or hormone disruption, it may be caused by a medical condition that affects hair growth, such as a thyroid disorder or anemia. Treatment for an underlying medical condition will often halt hair loss and may restore hair fullness.
Some factors may appear to be related to hair loss or shedding but do not cause your hair to thin. According to the Columbia University Department of Dermatology, conditions such as poor scalp circulation and dandruff do not cause hair loss. Take heart hat-lovers: donning your favorite chapeau will not thin your locks either.
Seeing a Dermatologist
A dermatologist, like at Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, can help sort out whether your thinning hair is due to shedding or hair loss. The doctor will look at your full medical history and perform an exam. He or she may perform a quick scalp biopsy in the office and order a blood test before making a diagnosis and treatment plan.