Hair loss in men and women: symptoms and causes

It can affect the scalp or the whole body, and be a consequence of hereditary factors, hormonal changes, a disease or medications. Although it can occur in anyone, it is usually more common in men.

People can lose up to about 100 hairs a day. Photo: Getty

Usually, hair loss causes a hereditary factor along with age. Some prefer to let baldness run its course without treating or hiding it, while others resort to concealing it with hairstyles, makeup, hats or wigs. There are also those who choose a treatment to prevent the fall from continuing and restore its growth.

Hair loss can occur, depending on the cause, suddenly or gradually. Sometimes it is something temporary while in other cases it is permanent. Signs and symptoms may include the following:

Loss of gradual hair thickness at the top of the head . This is the most frequent type and affects both men and women as they age. In men, the hairline begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M. Women usually keep it on the forehead, but have a widening in the separation of the hair.

Circular or patchy bald spots.  In some people, soft bald spots, the size of a coin, are present. This type of loss usually affects only the scalp, but sometimes also occurs in the beard or eyebrows. There may be itching or pain in the skin before the hair falls out.

Sudden hair loss  A physical or emotional shock can loosen the hair. Tufts may fall out when combing, washing or even pulling gently. This type of hair loss usually causes general hair thinning instead of baldness patches.

Hair loss throughout the body.  Some medical disorders and treatments such as cancer chemotherapy can cause loss throughout the body. Usually the hair grows back.

Flaking patches that spread on the scalp. It can be accompanied by broken hair, redness, inflammation and, sometimes, secretions.

Why does hair fall out?

People can lose up to about 100 hairs a day. This does not usually cause hair loss on the scalp because, at the same time, they grow new. Hair loss occurs when the cycle of growth and fall is altered or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

It is usually related to one or more of the following factors:

Family history (genetic predisposition).  The most common cause is an inherited disorder called male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. It tends to appear gradually as it ages and in predictable patterns: a receding hairline and balding areas among men, and reduced hair thickness among women.

Hormonal changes and medical disorders.  Several disorders can cause temporary or permanent hair loss, which include hormonal changes in pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Medical disorders include alopecia areata, which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm, and a hair pulling disorder called trichotillomania.

Medications and supplements.  It can be a side effect of some medications, such as those used to treat cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout and high blood pressure.

A very stressful event.  Many people notice a reduction in hair thickness months after suffering a physical or emotional shock. This type of hair loss is temporary.

Certain hair styles and treatments.  Excessive modeling or hairstyles that pull a lot of hair can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Hot or permanent oil treatments can inflame the follicles and cause hair loss. If there is scarring, hair loss can be permanent.


Most cases of baldness are caused by genetic reasons. There is no prevention for this type of hair loss. However, these tips can help you avoid other types of loss:

- Avoid braided hairstyles such as braids, runners or ponytails.

- Avoid twisting your hair, rubbing it or throwing it compulsively.

- Treat your hair gently when you wash and brush. With a wide tooth comb, hair pulling can be avoided.

- Avoid strong treatments such as hot curling irons, hair straighteners, hot oil treatments and permanent ones.

- Avoid taking medications or supplements that cause hair loss.

- Protects hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.

- Stop smoking. Some studies have shown a relationship between smoking and baldness in men.

- If you undergo chemotherapy, consult your doctor about a cold hat. These reduce the risk of hair loss during treatment.

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