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Balding: Health Information and Treatment Options

A variety of factors can cause balding. Typical causes include heredity, prescription medications, health problems, and poor nutrition. Most people lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. However, some people lose an excessive amount of hair. This results in bald patches or thinness that can have a negative impact on your appearance.

If you are experiencing excessive hair loss, you’re not alone. Nearly half of the American population suffers from balding by age 50. Balding isn’t a life threatening condition. However, it can lower your self-esteem and cause mental distress. Fortunately, there are treatments for balding that can slow or even reverse hair loss.

Balding Symptoms

There are three main types of hair loss. Your symptoms will depend on the type of balding you’re experiencing. Some patients lose their hair quickly, while others lose it gradually. Balding can occur throughout the scalp, or in concentrated areas. Some patients experience temporary hair loss, while others suffer from permanent balding.

Depending on your specific situation, balding symptoms can include:

• Hair that thins gradually. Both men and women can experience this type of balding. Your hair can thin in one area, or all over the scalp. Men typically begin losing their hair in the front. It then recedes backwards, forming an “M” shape. You may have heard people call this a “receding hairline.” A woman’s hairline usually isn’t affected by balding. Women tend to lose hair throughout the top of their scalp.

• Hair that falls out suddenly. Sudden balding is typically caused by physical or emotional stress. You may notice that your hair falls out in large clumps when washed or brushed.

• Full-body balding. You may lose hair all over your body due to a medical condition or treatment. Typical causes include chemotherapy and thyroid disorders.

Causes of Balding

A hereditary condition called Androgenic Alopecia can cause balding. You may know this condition as “male pattern baldness.” Hereditary balding is the result of hormonal changes that shrink hair follicles. Individual hairs become short and fine. Over time, the hair follicle cannot support new hair, which leads to balding.

Several other factors can contribute to balding, including:

• Poor nutrition.

• Medical conditions and disorders.

• Certain prescription medications.

• Severe physical and emotional stress.

• Thyroid problems and hormonal imbalances.

• Damage from chemical hair treatments and dyes.

If you’re experiencing unusual hair loss, you may wish to see your doctor for an examination. Your doctor can diagnose the problem and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Balding Caused by Telogen Effluvium

A condition called Telogen Effluvium is the second most common cause of balding. Severe physical or emotion stress can trigger the condition, which interferes with the normal hair growth cycle.

Telogen Effluvium can result from anorexia, bulimia, fever, childbirth, chronic disease, surgery, anemia, or emotional distress. The condition causes thinning throughout the scalp. Fortunately, Telogen Effluvium is completely reversible. Once your doctor treats the root cause, the normal hair growth cycle can resume.

Balding Caused by Alopecia Areata

You immune system can attack your hair follicles. This results in a condition called Alopecia Areata. The condition causes balding on the head, beard, and eyebrows. Some extreme cases of Alopecia Areata can cause complete hair loss on the scalp, face, and body. Hair growth will usually resume after many years, even without treatment.

Diagnosing Balding

A detailed medical examination can help your doctor determine why you’re suffering from balding. Your doctor can diagnose hereditary balding based on the pattern and rate of hair loss. Tell your doctor about any accompanying symptoms that could aid the diagnosis.

In some cases, balding can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. As such, your doctor may wish to perform more tests, including a blood analysis or skin biopsy. This is especially important if you are experiencing sudden or rapid hair loss accompanied by itching, redness, or pain.

Balding Treatments

Your treatment options will depend on your specific diagnosis. If an underlying medical condition is causing your balding symptoms, treatment should resolve your hair loss problem. Treatments for hereditary balding include prescription medications and surgery. Some treatments can stop or slow balding, while others can restore your hair.

Propecia is a prescription medication used to treat hereditary balding. The medication slows the production of the hormone that causes hair loss. Clinical studies have shown that Propecia can treat balding symptoms. If used for at least 12 months, some patients can even regrow lost hair. Propecia is the only FDA-approved medication used to treat hereditary balding.

Surgical Treatments for Balding

If you suffer from permanent balding due to heredity, hair transplant surgery can restore your hair. During this procedure, your doctor transplants tiny plugs of scalp from the back of your head to cover your bald patches. Hair transplant surgery usually involves multiple treatments. However, it’s an effective and permanent solution for balding.

Scalp reduction surgery involves removing part of the scalp. The surgeon replaces the removed portions with sections of the scalp that contain hair. Alternatively, your surgeon may choose to simply cover the bald portions with other sections of the scalp.

Many men choose surgical treatments for balding as a permanent solution. However, hair restoration surgery can be expensive and painful. The risks associated with the surgery include scalp infection and scarring.

How Balding Affects Your Health

Balding can indicate an underlying medical condition. If you’re experiencing unusual hair loss, consult a licensed physician. Balding can be a symptom of hormonal problems or thyroid disease. It can also be a side effect of certain medical treatments or prescription medications. If you believe that a medication is causing balding, your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative treatment.

Balding can result from extreme weight loss, low iron levels, lack of nutrition, and emotional stress. To keep your hair in good condition, eat a well balanced diet and take steps to manage your stress levels. If you’re concerned about the condition of your hair, schedule an appointment with your doctor.