Syndicated from The Mayo News

We all lose hair every day and sometimes more than at other times. But we are very secure in the fact that it will keep replacing itself and growing back, that is until it doesn’t.

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. Alopecia is more common than we may realize. It is rarely talked about and sufferers are reluctant to bring attention to their own hair loss and typically keep it a secret. Hair loss can be experienced by anyone, men, women and children but in this article we will focus more on female hair loss.

Alopecia has made headlines in recent years with TV presenter and Model Gail Porter speaking about her own hair loss, alopecia totalis.

The key, for the sake of a woman’s sanity and self-esteem, is to catch the condition as early as possible. Often many women can lose up to half their hair before they notice it or get treatment for it. This is compounded by the fact that many women wonder if it is a problem on their head, or in their head. While they may suspect that their hair has been thinning, they may not be believed by others and can even doubt it themselves.

Family, friends, colleagues and even general practitioners can dismiss the extent of the hair loss, not believing that there really is an issue. After already facing the difficult challenge of speaking about your fears, this can be a devastating reaction to get from others. Regardless of whether the hair loss is as bad as perceived, the fears, worries and concerns need to be taken seriously. The condition needs to be checked out properly, in order to get help and treatment.

Causes of extreme hair loss
The causes of hair loss are many and varied. For this reason it can be difficult to pin point the exact cause and the subsequent appropriate treatment. Some of the possible causes of hair loss are as follows:

Genetic hair loss is a type of female hair loss that is less visible, but can be incredibly distressing. The hair thins gradually, often over decades, around the top frontal area and extending back to the crown. It can start at any age, is progressive and inherited. It is the only hair loss in which the follicle gradually gets smaller and finer and produces smaller and finer hair until it stops altogether and then you get the thinning.

Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss that can develop when the body is put through extreme stress, such as child birth, malnutrition or major surgery. This can occur from 6 weeks to 3 months after the stressful experience.

Another common cause of hair loss is alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune disease that can be inherited. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in hair follicles, leading to hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body.

Certain medical conditions, such as anaemia and thyroid disorders or the use of certain medications can also lead to hair loss. Imbalance of certain nutrients or vitamins, hormonal changes, skin conditions are other possible causes of significant hair loss.
Traction alopecia is the name given to hair loss that is triggered by trauma to the hair follicles, usually through hair styling that pulls at the hair for example braiding, tight ponytails and hair extensions.

Get help
The important thing with any form of hair loss is that you get help.  The physical and psychological effects of hair loss should not be underestimated. This is not solely a cosmetic issue. Alopecia can have serious psychosocial consequences, causing intense emotional suffering. It can affect self-esteem, confidence, quality of life and relationships. Alopecia can also lead to depression, anxiety and social phobia. This relationship between alopecia and psychological impact is complicated, in that alopecia can result from a stressful experience, and then in itself lead to further distress.

No matter how you go about treating the physical implications of your hair loss, you need to heal on the inside too. Though hair loss can be initially quite devastating, it doesn’t have to affect your self-esteem in the long-term. It is possible to feel confident again. Make efforts to surround yourself with caring and understanding people. And reach out to talk to a professional counsellor or psychologist, if you feel the need.