What causes alopecia?

Alopecia can be attributed to a variety of causes, including underlying medical conditions, medications, hormonal changes, aging, heredity, and hair care habits.

Medical conditions that can cause alopecia

Various medical conditions can cause alopecia including:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Anorexia
  • Autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus and discoid lupus
  • Chronic iron deficiency
  • Infections or illnesses
  • Ringworm
  • Thyroid disease
  • Trichotillomania (compulsive disorder in which people pull out their own hair)
  • Various inherited structural hair disorders like monilethrix, and trichothiodystrophy

Medications that can cause alopecia

The use of certain types of medications can cause alopecia. These include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Anticancer chemotherapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihypertensives (blood pressure medications)
  • Blood thinners
  • Heart medications
  • High-dose vitamin A

Other conditions that can cause alopecia

Hormonal changes, as experienced in pregnancy, after childbirth, and during menopause, can cause alopecia. Nutrition and emotional stress may also affect hair loss. Conditions associated with alopecia include:

  • Childbirth
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Menopause
  • Poor nutrition (excessive intake of vitamin A, deficiencies in protein or iron)
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress from traumatic events, such as death, divorce, or illness

Hair care habits that can cause alopecia

The way that you manage and style your hair can cause alopecia. Hair care habits that contribute to alopecia include:

  • Brushing, combing, or pulling hair when wet
  • Chemical treatments, such as relaxers, straighteners, or permanents (perms)
  • Excessive shampooing, which dries out the scalp and hair follicles
  • Hair accessories, such as clips, hairpins, and rubber bands
  • High heat from blow-dryers or heating irons
  • Peroxide and other hair dyes

What are the risk factors for alopecia?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing alopecia. Not all people with risk factors will get alopecia. Risk factors for alopecia include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Illness
  • Improper care and maintenance of hair
  • Menopause
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress

Reducing your risk of alopecia

Some of the risk factors for alopecia are beyond your control, such as heredity, age and menopause. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of alopecia from other causes. These include:

  • Limiting use of flat irons, curling irons, blow-dryers, and other devices that can damage or dry out hair
  • Limiting use of relaxers, permanents, bleach, or other hair chemicals
  • Using scrunchies made of fabric instead of rubber bands or metal barrettes to secure hair
  • Using smooth, ball-tipped hairpins


What is alopecia?

Alopecia is hair loss that can be caused by heredity, aging, disease, medications or lifestyle. The timing and course of hair loss can provide clues to its cause. For example, hair loss that comes on suddenly may be attributed to illness, diet, or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation. Gradual hair loss that becomes more prominent over the years is likely to be hereditary and a ... Read more about alopeciaintroduction


What are the symptoms of alopecia?

Symptoms of alopecia include thinning and loss of hair, either gradually or suddenly. In women, hair loss typically occurs over the front and top of the scalp, while the male pattern affects the hairline (receding hairline) or at the top of the scalp.

Although alopecia is not life threatening, it can suggest underlying illness, especially if the hair loss is sudden. Seek p... Read more about alopeciasymptoms


How is alopecia treated?

Treatment for alopecia begins with contacting your health care provider, who may refer you to a dermatologist. You will be asked a series of questions about medications, family history, diet, and preexisting medical history to determine the pattern of hair loss. Once the cause is identified, you can begin medical or surgical treatment.

Over-the-counter medications used to trea... Read more about alopeciatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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