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Thinning Hair in Women: Causes & Treatments

Not too many people think that women suffer from hair loss; however, it is a common problem affecting many. There is a type of hair loss that is genetic in nature, and some that are due to stress, malnutrition and chronic diseases. No matter what type of hair loss problem a woman has, it can cause psychosocial and emotional stress due to its effect on her overall physical appearance. Fortunately, there are some treatments available that patients can choose from in order to cure or impede the loss of hair.

Chronic Telogen Effluvium

Chronic telogen effluvium commonly affects more women than men. Affected mostly are women between the ages of 40 and 50, although it may also occur in younger individuals. Chronic telogen effluvium can last up to 72 months; therefore, this type of hair loss is not permanent. Possible causes of chronic telogen effluvium are due to a deficiency of iron, vitamin B12, folate or protein. Some also attribute stress that is emotional or physiological in nature as a possible cause for hair loss. Chronic telogen effluvium starts with the gradual loss of hair, which can lead to hair loss over the entire scalp and temples.

Administering spironolactone to patients affected by chronic telogen effluvium showed promising results. A study published by the Department of Dermatology at the University of Melbourne (Volume 52, Issue 2, Supplement, Pages S12-S16 (February 2005)) showed that spironolactone partially reversed the hair loss of patients tested.

Androgenetic Alopecia

A common disorder affecting both men and women, androgenetic alopecia is genetic in nature, affecting roughly 50 percent of men and roughly as many for women who are 40 years and older. The progression of hair loss conversion is gradual from terminal hairs into indeterminate hairs and down to the vellus hairs. Patients suffering from androgenic alopecia have a typical distribution of hair loss, with a terminal-to-vellus ratio of 2 to 1. According to a published online report on Medscape website, written by Robert P. Feinstein, M.D., an associate clinical professor at the Department of Dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, approximately 13 percent of women suffer from androgenic alopecia during the premenopausal stage, with significant increase following menopause. Evidence of this hair loss for women shows diffuse thinning on the crown with less evidence of recession of hair at around the temporal area.

According to the same online publication, only Minoxidil and Finasteride, which are both approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are available for treatment of androgenetic alopecia and proven to be the most effective. There are some non-FDA-approved drugs that can be beneficial as well, such as spironolactone and oral contraceptives. Another FDA-approved drug for use as treatment is Hairmax Lasercomb, which is a low-level laser light therapy that is similar to an over-the-counter hairbrush.

Alopecia Areata

Affecting any hair-bearing area, alopecia areata is a genetic type of hair loss that does not scar but is recurrent. Affecting both men and women, it can occur at any age from birth to the later years of life. As many as 44 percent of patients are under 20 years old, and 30 percent or less are 40 years or older. There are two types of alopecia areata: localized and extensive. Localized alopecia areata results in less than 50 percent of hair loss, and is patchy in appearance. It can heal within a few months even without treatment. Extensive alopecia areata, on the other hand, results in 50 percent or more hair loss, at times resulting in complete baldness. Diabetes mellitus, stress, collagen-vascular diseases, anxiety and stressful life events are factors that can lead to alopecia areata. Some of the treatments effectively proven are glucocorticoids, minoxidil, anthralin and topical immunotherapy.

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