ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - How would you describe the perfect head of hair? Thick, long, voluminous? Chances are thinning and balding wouldn't fit the description. But for one in every four women hair loss is a potentially devastating problem they'll have to face. But there are many reasons behind it, and ways to fight it.
"Significant amounts of hair. It was just hair everywhere. When I was taking a shower I felt like all my hair was going to come out. I even started to have nightmares that I was going to wake up and not have any hair at all," Kay Boswell told Ivanhoe.
For Boswell it came out in clumps. Her high-stress hospitality career had taken its toll on her head.
"It was making me feel so inadequate," Boswell explained.
Stress is one of the top reasons for female hair loss, or telogen effluvium. In fact new research shows the second strongest predictor of central hair loss in women is their marital status. Divorce or death of a spouse can actually thin you're your tresses. Other reasons for hair loss include major surgery, weight loss or medications.
"Usually if you find the cause it's easily correctable," Marina Pizzaro, M.D., Hair specialist told Ivanhoe.
To treat it, try biotin or iron supplements, hormone replacement therapy, or minoxidil, a good source of it is the popular male hair stimulator Rogaine.
"Rogaine is definitely worth using. It works better in women than in men," Dr. Pizzaro said.
Another top hair loss factor is excessive styling. A Cleveland Clinic study found 30 percent of middle-aged black women are balding due to everything from chemicals to tight braids and ponytails. To protect your locks, set your hair dryer on low, keep your styling tools at or below 347 degrees Fahrenheit, and heat your locks no more than two or three times a week. Avoid products with ammonia and styles that pull on the hair. Styling damage may be reversible, but the top cause of female hair loss isn't.
"It's like an internal clock that says at such age you're going to start losing your hair and it doesn't matter that's a family trait," Dr. Pizzaro said.
Forty percent of women with hair loss are under 40, that's because women with genetic hair loss tend to see hairline thinning as early as their 20s. The best options are hair replacement therapies and surgery. A hair transplant helped Boswell regrow her locks and a new career helped rebuild her confidence.
"Hair does matter, especially for women," Boswell concluded.
A new study found that excessive drinking and smoking also boosts the risk for hair loss in women. Research shows the drug minoxidil, found in Rogaine, is especially effective in younger women with hair loss. Dr. Pizarro said the earlier you begin treating the condition causing the hair loss, the better chance you'll have at regrowing healthy hair.
WOMEN & HAIR LOSS: Everyone loses hair. It happens during your morning shower, while you're blowing it dry, or when you give it a quick brush which is normal. On average, women lose 50 to 100 hairs a day. But hair loss may be a sign of a more serious medical condition that needs an evaluation by a dermatologist and possible treatment. Here are some of the top causes of hair loss:
TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM: This phenomenon occurs after pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress, in which you shed large amounts of hair every day, usually when shampooing, styling, or brushing. During telogen effluvium, hair shifts faster than normal from its growing phase into the "resting" phase before moving quickly into the shedding, or telogen, phase. Women with it typically notice hair loss 6 weeks to 3 months after a stressful event.
HEREDITARY HAIR LOSS: Hair loss that is genetic is known as androgenetic alopecia. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it's the most common cause of hair loss. The gene can be inherited from either your mother's or father's side of the family.
HYPOTHYROIDISM: Millions of people, most of them women, suffer from thyroid disease. When your body produces too little thyroid hormone, the hormone responsible for metabolism, heart rate, and mood, you are said to have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism may cause weight gain, fatigue, constipation and difficulty concentrating. Hair, nails, and skin may become more brittle and break more easily. It's more common in women, over 50.
IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA: Women who have heavy periods or don't eat enough iron-rich foods may be prone to iron deficiency, in which the blood doesn't have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen to cells throughout your body, giving you the energy you need. Iron deficiency anemia causes extreme fatigue, weakness, pale skin, headaches, difficulty concentrating, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME: As many as five million women in the United States suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome. The condition, which can begin as early as age 11, is caused by a hormonal imbalance in which the ovaries produce too many male hormones. PCOS can cause facial hair growth, irregular periods, acne, and cysts on the ovaries. And while you may experience hair loss on your scalp, you may notice more hair elsewhere on the body. Most cases of PCOS are treated with birth control pills that have a potent anti-androgen that blocks testosterone. If you can't use birth control pills, your doctor may prescribe spironolactone which also blocks male hormones. (SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, ABC News)
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