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Hair Loss in Women

Hair is the crowning glory for most women.  A bad hair day is a bummer.  But women facing unwanted hair growth or hair loss face bad hair days daily.

We usually think of hair loss as something that only affects men, but at least 20 million American women suffer from this!  The causes of hair loss and baldness in women are poorly understood, but result from genetic factors, hormonal changes, improper hair care, stress, certain diseases and certain medications.

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.  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 receeding 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 androgens ("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:  for some women, estrogen replacement or minoxidil may prompt hair regrowth.

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Created: 5/31/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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