Female pattern baldness can be a tricky thing and a cause of emotional distress for many women, especially if they start balding while they are younger. Hair forms a vital element of a woman’s personality and style. Loss of hair could be damaging to a woman’s self-esteem.
What is female pattern baldness?
Extensive and uncontrollable hair loss is also known as alopecia. It can be acquired or hereditary, i.e. it can occur due to environmental and other external factors or a past history of hair loss in the family.
Common causes are recent hormonal changes, family history, the ageing process, and systemic or scalp-related medical issues. Pregnancy can also be a factor, but fortunately, that’s a short-term cause.
Baldness refers to the loss of hair and the outcome of severe hair loss. It is commonly associated with old age.
If you think you suffer from female pattern baldness, you should first consult your doctor and then consider starting a new treatment. Make sure you’re not on any medication as it can worsen hair loss.
Classification of female hair loss
Doctors use Ludwig Classification to define female pattern hair loss. Type I is minimal thinning which can be camouflaged with hair styling techniques, while Type II is characterized by diminishing volume and visible widening of the mid-line part. Type III describes diffuse thinning, with a see-through appearance on the top of the scalp.
Types of female pattern baldness
There are various types of female pattern baldness. The first two types are the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) types, resulting from the male hormone testosterone. They can manifest in the following ways:
- Androgenetic Alopecia
This causes the thinning of hair all over the scalp, unlike male pattern baldness. This is due to an excess of androgens . Conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy, intake of oral birth control pills with a high androgen index, menopause, etc., may cause androgenetic alopecia. Genetics is the leading cause of this type of female pattern baldness.
- Telogen Effluvium
This is mostly associated with major body changes like pregnancy, lack of nourishment, systemic infection, mental stress, or major surgery.
The hair loss is evident after about 1-6 months of a recent stressful event. You can completely reverse this kind of female pattern baldness. It can, however, last for months and even a few years in some women without any known triggers.
- Anagen Effluvium
This is common in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. This is caused by damage to the hair follicles at a cellular level.
The mitotic and metabolic activities in the hair follicles are disturbed. Chemotherapy drugs target the rapidly dividing cells in your body. Hair follicles are one such type of cell. Therefore, more than 90% of the hair falls out during the anagen phase of growth.
This type of female pattern baldness is characterised by a tapered end break of the hair strands. The shaft of each hair decreases in diameter due to damage to the matrix. Ultimately, the shaft fractures at the site of narrowing thus causing hair loss.
- Alopecia Areata
This is a condition in which a person’s immune system starts attacking the hair follicles, causing patchy hair to fall—about 70% of the individuals with this recover within two years, with or without treatment.
- Traction Alopecia
This is caused by tight hairstyles like ponytails, braiding, extension, cornrows, etc., that causes a constant pull on your hair’s roots. You can reverse this by changing the hairstyle to a more relaxed one. You can regrow your lost hair .
What are the symptoms of female pattern baldness?
Here are some symptoms of female pattern baldness:
- You might notice a gradual decrease in the volume of hair on the crown. This is more common in men. However, older women may also suffer from this. This is known as frontal fibrosing alopecia, which causes a gradual increase in the hairline to eyebrow distance.
- There might be a sudden, unexplained loss of hair. Emotional, mental, or physical stress are some vital factors. This is a temporary symptom and regresses with a decrease in stress.
- Sometimes, you may notice scaling on the scalp that might be in patches spread over the scalp.
- On rare occasions, you may develop patchy, scattered pattern bald spots. This might happen to your eyebrows as well.
- In extreme cases, especially if you are on chemotherapy, you might experience hair loss, followed by the rest of the body, including your eye-brows and facial hair.
When to see a doctor?
If you notice any of the hair loss signs and find yourself dealing with stress or related problems, consult your doctor. And if you are suffering from frontal fibrosing alopecia, an early diagnosis can help stop the hair loss.
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What causes female pattern baldness?
A regular hair cycle is a continuous process with a daily loss of about 50-100 hairs per day. It is not noticeable because the loss is replaced by new hair. If not, it is visible and may have been triggered by one of the following causes:
- Genetic factors: Androgenic alopecia is a more common type caused by hereditary factors. Women tend to experience this on the top of their crown while males suffer from a receding hairline. You might notice the thinning of hair on the top of your head initially.
- Hormonal imbalance: This can be a temporary or permanent problem. Several reasons like birth control pills with high androgen index, pregnancy, childbirth, immune system-related causes, thyroid problems, etc., can cause female pattern baldness.
- Radiation therapy: Full-body or targeted radiation on the head can cause hair loss.
- Side-effects of medications: Medications taken to treat cancer, depression, arthritis, gout, heart problems, and high blood pressure are common causes. This is, however, very subjective and may differ from person to person.
- Hairstyle and salon treatments: Tight hairstyles place traction on the roots and cause hair fall. If you have a habit of tying very tight ponytails and love hairstyles that need to be secured with many pins and sprays or gels, it can gradually cause hair to fall more than it can grow back. This can easily be avoided.
- Stress: Hair fall caused by temporary factors is widespread in today’s hectic and complicated lifestyles. One can get physically, mentally, or emotionally stressed, and experience hair fall from time to time.
- Mental disorders: Interestingly, trichotillomania, a mental illness that causes an urge in an individual to pull their hair, may also lead to intense hair fall.
Treatments for female pattern baldness
There are certain medications for topical application that your doctor might prescribe. These drugs are generally available over-the-counter, such as Minoxidil. Oral medicines like spironolactone, dutasteride are also recommended by physicians. It is, however, essential to note that a prescribed dose is a must for these medications to avoid an increase in hair loss.
Your doctor might prescribe these medications for a long duration, like for more than a year. You might start to see the results only after a few months.
A hair transplant is one of the latest options that may help you regain your lost hair. It might not be cheap as it is an elaborate procedure with multiple sittings with the dermatologist and the cosmetologist.
Your doctor will take samples of hair from the back of your head or other body parts and place them one-by-one inside the follicles in the bald area. Bleeding during the procedure is expected, followed by bruising and swelling after the procedure. There are chances of infection as well- your doctor will prescribe the right routine and medication to counter the same.
How to prevent female pattern baldness?
You may not be able to avoid all the factors that cause hair loss, but taking good care of your health is the first step. Ensure you lead a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Female pattern baldness is a common problem and has several solutions if you start the treatment early. Consulting with your doctor is very important to find the exact cause of the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Can I reverse female pattern baldness?
No, female pattern baldness is not reversible. But, you can stop or reduce hair loss and even regrow the lost hair back. If not all, at least some of it. It might take up to one year for the results to be evident.
- How can I not let hair loss affect my emotions?
It is crucial not to let hair loss affect your emotions and state of mind. You have to understand that it is not a life-threatening concern, and you need not worry or feel depressed.
Consult your hair-stylist and get a haircut that suits the volume of your hair and your face to make it less apparent. You can also talk to friends and relatives who understand or even consider professional therapy.
- Can hair loss affect my psychology?
Studies suggest that severe hair loss or baldness can lead to psychological problems, especially in females. It can lead to anxiety, depression, loss of self-esteem, and many other mental health issues.