Hair loss

Updated 01 July 2016

Signs and symptoms of hair loss

Many men and women regard their hair as their crowning glory, so it’s not surprising that hair loss (medically known as alopecia), often has a devastating psychological impact on self confidence and emotional wellbeing.

0

Not everyone realises that it’s normal for some hair to fall out every day.

That’s because most people lose between 50 to 100 scalp hairs every day, but these are usually replenished.

Shedding entails clumps of hair falling out, while hair that falls out during thinning is usually not noticeable.

Hair loss manifests in different ways.

Some people experience subtle hair thinning as they age, while others have extensive hair loss or even total baldness.

Depending on the cause, hair loss can be sudden or occur gradually. You may only lose hair on your scalp or it could affect your whole body.

Some types of hair loss are temporary while others – like androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness) – are progressive and permanent.  

  • Hair loss also varies between men, women and children. If you notice:
  • Unusually large amounts of hair collecting in your hairbrush
  • More than 100 hair strands falling out
  • Clumps of hair on clothing or in basin/bath plugholes when shampooing, showering or bathing, it may be a good time to investigate further and speak to an experienced hair specialist about your hair loss concerns.  

These signs and symptoms could indicate hair loss:

If you are a man, look out for: ·      

Thinning hair on your scalp
A changing or receding hairline
The appearance of one or more bald patches
A horseshoe-shaped pattern around the back and sides of the head that leaves the crown of your head exposed.
Male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), usually follows a specific pattern, hence the name.
A receding hairline is the first sign, followed by hair thinning on the temples and crown.
A receding hairline usually appears first, followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples. In rare cases, this type of hair loss progresses to complete baldness.

In women, signs of hair loss and hair conditions may include:

General hair thinning, especially at the top (crown) of the head
A widened hair parting.
Note that women very rarely develop complete baldness.

Children and young adults that show any of the following symptoms may be affected by hair loss and should be seen by a doctor:

Sudden loss of patches of hair

Rubbing or pulling out hair

Complete loss of all hair on the body

Patches of broken hairs that resemble black dots

Incomplete hair loss on the scalp and/or eyebrows.

Other general signs and symptoms of hair loss may include:

Gradual thinning on top of head: As the most common type of hair loss, this affects both women and men as they age.
Men
often find that their hair starts to recede in a line resembling the letter ‘M’ from the forehead.
Women
usually keep the hairline on their forehead and generally lose hair from the top of their head only, which is usually more visible after menopause.

Patchy or round bald areas: Alopecia areata causes smooth patches or bald spots roughly the size of a large coin, usually on the scalp. Bald spots can occur anywhere on the body and may also be seen in eyebrows, eyelashes, beards or the genital area. Occasionally, people complain of discomfort or itchiness before the hair falls out. 

Scaly patches on the scalp: If you notice patches of hair loss or scaling on the scalp, you may have ringworm (tinea), a common contagious fungal skin infection. Other ringworm symptoms include itching, swelling, redness, broken hair and blister-like skin lesions.

Sudden loosening of hair: Physical or emotional shock to the body can result in clumps of hair loosening and falling out when you wash, comb or just gently tug your hair.  Hair loosening is more likely to cause overall hair thinning rather than bald patches.

Events such as serious illness, anaemia, stress, rapid weight loss, surgery and taking certain medicines may result in excessive hair shedding.

Full-body hair loss: Some conditions and invasive medical treatments like radiation or chemotherapy can result in overall loss of body hair. Hair usually grows back once you stop treatment.

Finger nails with a pitted appearance usually affect one in 10 people with alopecia areata. In some cases, people affected by alopecia areata may find their hair often grows back, but that it seems white and fine in texture. In time, their hair will be restored to its original colour.

When to see a doctor about hair loss

Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Always go to a reputable hair loss clinic or medical doctor with specialised knowledge in hair loss and restoration. See your doctor if you:

Notice you are losing patches of hair suddenly rather than gradually

 Experience an unexplained loss of hair on any part of the body

Are concerned about hair loss and want specialist medical advice on treatment options. 

Read more: 

Overview of hair disorders  

Types of hair loss 

Causes of hair loss 

 

Sources

1. MayoClinic, symptoms of hair loss http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/symptoms/con-20027666

2. WebMD, Understanding hair loss symptoms http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/understanding-hair-loss-symptoms

3. Drugs.com Hair Loss http://www.drugs.com/health-guide/hair-loss.html

4. The Health and Safety Executive, Ireland, Symptoms of hair loss http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/A/Alopecia-hair-loss-/Symptoms-of-hair-loss.html

5. International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery http://www.ishrs.org/article/hair-loss-and-hair-growth-cycle