Losing more hair than usual on a daily or ongoing basis can sometimes point to health concerns that need medical attention. Hair plays a crucial role in one’s appearance and self-esteem. While many individuals encounter hair thinning or loss at various stages in life, it’s essential to discern whether such hair loss is within normal boundaries or can hair loss be a sign of something serious. Hair is important for appearance and self-esteem. Many people experience hair loss at some point in their lives. The key is figuring out if the hair loss is within normal limits or if it signifies something more serious. There are ways to determine the cause of abnormal hair loss and treatment options available.
Table of Contents
Can hair loss be a sign of something serious?
Hair loss can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition that requires evaluation and treatment. Sudden or abnormal hair loss should be discussed with a doctor to identify and address any health issues.
- Autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata can trigger sudden patchy hair loss.
- Hormonal imbalances related to thyroid disorders, menopause or PCOS may cause thinning hair or hair shedding.
- Iron deficiency anaemia, a common cause of hair loss, is confirmed with blood tests.
- High-stress levels over long periods can potentially lead to telogen effluvium hair loss.
- Diabetes and lupus are examples of diseases that list hair loss as a common symptom.
- Nutritional deficiencies in iron, zinc, vitamin D and protein can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
What are some severe health issues that can cause hair loss?
Various medical conditions may result in hair loss, including autoimmune diseases, hormonal disorders, skin conditions, and nutritional deficiencies.
|Type of Hair Loss
|Autoimmune attack on follicles
|Thyroid hormone imbalance
|Inflammation damages follicles
|Scarring bald patches
|The immune reaction causes inflammation
|Iron deficiency anaemia
|Lack of iron inhibits growth
|High androgens miniaturise follicles
This table summarises some medical conditions that commonly cause hair loss through autoimmune reactions, hormonal changes, nutritional deficits and their effects on the hair growth cycle.
Can stress cause permanent hair loss?
Severe and chronic stress can contribute to different forms of temporary or long-term hair loss, but hair usually regrows once the stress is under control.
|Hair regrows after shedding
|No regrowth if permanently damaged
|Prolonged high cortisol
|Hair regrows with lowered stress
|Stress impairs diet
|Hair regrows with an improved diet
This table looks at different forms of stress-related hair loss, whether the hair loss may be permanent, and ways to help minimise stress-induced damage to hair follicles.
What vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Key vitamin deficiencies that can trigger hair loss include iron, vitamin D, zinc, and B vitamins. Getting enough of these vitamins supports scalp health and the hair growth cycle.
|Makes hemoglobin that carries oxygen
|Meat, spinach, lentils
|Iron pills, drops
|Supports hair follicle cycling
|Sun, fortified milk, salmon
|Vitamin D capsules
|Aids protein synthesis for hair
|Oysters, nuts, seeds
|Strengthens hair shaft
|Eggs, nuts, seeds
|Helps form new cells
|Lentils, citrus fruits
|Folic acid tablets
This outlines the main vitamins involved in healthy hair growth, dietary sources to get them, and supplements that can be used if deficient.
Is losing a lot of hair normal?
Losing 50-100 hairs per day is considered normal. Higher amounts of daily hair shedding or thinning hair over time indicate abnormal hair loss that should be evaluated.
|Normal Hair Loss
|Excessive Hair Loss
|Teens and younger
|50s and older
|Geriatrician or dermatologist
|Post-surgery or illness
|Primary care physician
This table indicates what is considered a normal versus excessive degree of daily hair shedding for different age groups and when medical assessment should be sought.
What autoimmune diseases cause hair loss?
Some common autoimmune diseases that can result in hair loss include alopecia areata, lupus, lichen planus, and vitiligo.
- Alopecia areata causes patchy bald spots, typically on the scalp
- Systemic lupus erythematosus can trigger hair loss and scalp sores
- Lichen planus affects the scalp and causes scarring hair loss
- Vitiligo leads to depigmented white patches and whitening of hair
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair thinning
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease are associated with hair shedding
- Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes are also linked to hair loss
- Immunosuppressant drugs are sometimes prescribed to stop hair loss from autoimmune disorders
Can kidney disease cause hair loss?
Kidney disease can contribute to hair loss due to its effects on hormone balance, nutrient absorption, and anaemia. Kidney failure reduces the production of active vitamin D needed for hair growth.
- Anaemia from decreased red blood cells causes less oxygen to follicles
- Nutrient imbalances from improper kidney function hamper hair health
- Medications like blood thinners for kidney disease have hair loss as a side effect
- Accumulation of urea in the bloodstream with kidney failure causes hair damage
- Dialysis to treat kidney failure is linked to sudden hair-shedding
- People with chronic kidney disease often have zinc and biotin deficiency
- Kidney transplants may reverse hair loss, but transplant drugs cause shedding
Does PCOS cause hair thinning?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often causes hair thinning and loss, along with other hormonal effects like irregular periods, infertility, and acne.
- High androgen levels from PCOS can trigger female pattern hair loss
- Insulin resistance leads to elevated testosterone, causing thinning hair
- Lack of ovulation prevents cyclic estrogen rise needed for healthy hair
- Scalp hair follicles shrink due to hormonal imbalance of PCOS
- Excess body and facial hair growth can occur along with scalp hair loss
- Anti-androgen drugs like spironolactone and birth control can treat PCOS hair loss
- Losing weight, regular exercise and a specific diet help balance hormones in PCOS
What foods cause hair loss?
Unhealthy diets low in protein, iron, zinc and vitamins A, B, D, E can contribute to hair loss and thinning. Specific foods like soy, dairy and gluten may also trigger hair shedding for those with sensitivities.
|Mechanism of Hair Loss
|Low protein foods
|Inadequate amino acids
|Meat, eggs, beans
|Spikes insulin and androgens
|Whole grains, vegetables
|Inflammation in sensitive individuals
|High mercury fish
|Mercury buildup damages hair
|Salmon, tilapia, shrimp
|Trans fats increase inflammation
|Baked or grilled foods
This table summarises foods that can promote hair loss and healthier alternatives to prevent nutrient deficiencies and inflammation that affect hair health.
Can hair loss be reversed?
Early intervention to address the underlying cause can help reverse and treat many types of hair loss. However, permanent hair loss can occur if follicles are severely damaged for too long.
- Catching hypothyroidism early and taking medication helps regrow lost hair
- Controlling PCOS symptoms with medication, diet and exercise can restart hair growth
- Stopping compulsive hair pulling of trichotillomania prevents permanent bald spots
- Getting enough vitamins and nutrition helps reverse deficiency-related hair loss
- For genetic male or female pattern baldness, medicated shampoos and hair restoration surgery can restore hair
- Scarring alopecias like lichen planopilaris cause permanent, irreversible bald patches
- Getting sufficient sleep, lowering stress, and proper hair care helps treat temporary hair shedding
Pronounced hair shedding or thinning hair can indicate a possible medical issue in both women and men. It is important to consult a doctor when you’re concerned with the question, Can hair loss be a sign of something serious? Common causes such as stress, post-illness shedding, hypothyroidism, and nutrient deficiency are often reversible with proper treatment. For long-term hair loss issues, medications, supplements, hair restoration, or wigs may be options. With an accurate diagnosis and early intervention, abnormal hair loss can often be corrected.