Hair loss is something that a majority of people will have to deal with in their lives. Current statistics state that 60 to 70% of both men and women will have noticeable hair loss by age of 60. As with many widespread conditions such as this, there is no one cause for every person’s hair loss. Genetics seems to play a role in a majority of hair loss cases, but research on this is still incomplete, which means that scientists are not entirely certain about the exact causes. However, to get the clearest understanding possible about the causes of hair loss, it’s best to take a look at the different underlying conditions individually.
Androgenic alopecia is by far the most common form of hair loss and is estimated to affect roughly 80 million people in the United States alone. This is primarily believed to be a genetic condition that causes an imbalance of the hormone androgen in the body. One of androgen’s duties is regulating the cycle of hair growth, which normally lasts anywhere from two to six years. However, as the levels of this hormone increase in hair follicles, this cycle begins to shorten and be delayed for longer periods of time. As a result, hair follicles begin to produce shorter and thinner hairs until they stop making them altogether.
Scientists are currently unsure of the precise genetic mechanism that allows this phenomenon to occur, and some researchers believe that there are environmental factors that can account for an increased presence of androgen in hair follicles as well.
Alopecia areata is hair loss that is brought on by an autoimmune disorder. With this particular condition, a person’s immune system attacks the healthy tissues of the hair follicles, which disrupts and ultimately ends the normal cycle of hair growth. This condition is most commonly observed among family members, so researchers believe that the basis for alopecia areata is at least somewhat genetic; however, there is currently no definitive consensus about its origins.
Cicatricial alopecia is a serious and rare condition that causes scarring around a person’s hair follicles. This occurs when these follicles become inflamed, which destroys the sebaceous glands and stem cells and creates scar tissue, leading to irreversible hair loss. Scientists are still unsure about what causes cicatricial alopecia. Some believe that genes play a role, but since the condition doesn’t appear to be hereditary, the relationship between the two is still largely a mystery.
There are a number of diseases indirectly related to a person’s hair follicles that can still cause hair loss. These include thyroid conditions, lichen planus, lupus, and anemia. Typically if these underlying illnesses are addressed, hair loss is stopped and sometimes even reversed.
Certain types of medication are also able to cause hair loss. These include chemotherapy drugs as well as medications for high blood pressure, depression, and arthritis.