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When men lose hair, it is usually caused by hereditary factors. For women, however, doctors say that genetics rarely cause female hair loss. When women lose hair, it is usually a sign that there is something else wrong in the body. Sometimes, the condition can be helped as in the case of nutrient deficiency. At other times, it may not be so simple.
Hormones can cause female hair loss, especially relating to the thyroid gland. Women affected by hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism usually experience significant loss of hair. In addition, any sort of estrogen imbalance can cause female hair loss whether it is naturally occurring or a side effect from illness or medication.
There is a common hormonal problem called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that may present with multiple cysts in the ovaries and leads to cessation of or irregularity of menstruation, high rate of miscarriage, infertility and excessive male hormones. Usually, loss of hair is one of the only visible symptoms and it often leads to diagnosis.
Hormones also play a major role in the post-pregnancy period. Hair loss often occurs postpartum and this is due to the body's sudden deprivation of hormones that were present during the pregnancy. Anywhere from two to four months after delivery, the mother's hormone levels change and go back to normal. During the trimesters, hormone levels are high and hair that would normally fall out stays in the mother's head. Therefore, after childbirth, the natural growth cycle resumes and an unusual amount of hair appears to come out.
Losing hair immediately after pregnancy is referred to as temporary hair loss or telogen effluvium. This condition is offset by severe emotional or physiological stimuli. In addition to childbirth, also fever, chronic illness, major surgery, anemia, severe emotional disorders, crash diets, and drugs cause the loss of hair in women.
Many illnesses cause female hair loss as well. Physicians have linked autoimmune disorders with dramatic hair loss usually coming out in patches or clumps. Lupus is a common, chronic autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects females. In lupus as well as diabetes, women losing hair is common and usually a permanent symptom. Liver and kidney diseases as well as liver and kidney failure cause women to lose hair. There are also some mild fungal infections, such as yeast infections, that can have an effect on hair loss.
Medications can also cause women to lose hair. Common medicines that offset symptoms include blood thinners, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, amphetamines, anti-cholesterol agents, gout medication, chemotherapy, antidepressants and birth control pills. Especially with the case of birth control pills, hair loss can occur either as a cause of taking the medication or stopping it.
Nutrient deficiencies come into play as well. The most common ones are zinc deficiency, essential fatty acid deficiency, protein deficiency (common in vegetarians) and vitamin B6 deficiency (especially if on birth control pill). Curiously, an excessive amount of Vitamin A can lead to loss of hair as well.
There are some environmental causes as well usually linked with heavy metal poisoning. The most common one is mercury, but hair thinning can be caused by over-exposure to other metals such as lead or cadmium. This is a particular risk factor for those working in related industries and cigarette smokers.
Female hair loss was always considered to be a simple process similar to male hair loss. However, medical breakthroughs have discovered that loss of hair in women can help as a diagnostic tool for many conditions and, in many cases, is treatable or controllable.