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Female Pattern Baldness

Q: I've always had a thick, shiny head of hair, but recently I've noticed clumps of it coming out when I brush. I usually blow-dry in the morning, but I don't use dyes or any harsh chemicals. It's hard to believe that hot air could be causing this much damage. Could it be something more serious?

Dr. Donnica:
Yes, frequent blow drying, and even overenthusiastic brushing, can exacerbate hair loss in women. We usually think of hair loss as something that only affects men, but at least 20 million American women suffer from it! The causes of hair loss or even baldness in women are poorly understood, but may result from a combination of genetic factors, hormonal changes, improper hair care, stress, certain diseases and certain medications.

To begin with, you should limit your blow-drying to special occasions only and see if that helps. You can also lower the temperature or wait until your hair has mostly air-dried before you use the blow dryer for styling only.

Did you recently have a baby, start taking birth control pills or are you nearing menopause? Increased hair growth during pregnancy and then hair loss afterwards is common, but levels off after 3 months. Similarly, hair loss can also occur after a woman stops taking birth control pills.

Healthy hair is usually found on healthy people. Crash diets, hyper or hypothyroidism, polycystic ovaries, and lupus can also cause hair loss. Chemotherapy is infamous for causing reversible hair loss, but other medicines such as beta-blockers, antidepressants, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs can also cause this.

Classic male baldness begins with a receding hairline. In women, hair loss is common over the crown of the head. A diffuse thinning may occur, but frank baldness is rare. Hair loss can also begin at the time of menopause. Estrogen levels decrease and androgen ("male hormones") levels rise in proportion, resulting in some hair loss for nearly 60% of menopausal women. While most women react by covering it up, talking to your doctor may help: When hair loss is the result of a medical condition, treating that condition may restore the lost hair or prevent further loss.

In the meantime, if you're not already taking a multivitamin supplement, you may want to start. There are even supplements specifically designed for healthy hair (such as Nature's Bounty Vitamins for Hairô). For more information, go to www.hairlosstalk.com.

Created: 11/24/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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