If the part in your hairline is widening, you discover bald spots, or you shed more than 125 hairs per day, you’re likely experiencing hair loss and require an evaluation and/or treatment from a Gainesville dermatologist. There are several possible causes of hair loss and several different types of hair loss. A significant portion of the population experience hair loss. Hair loss, or alopecia, is one of the most common disorders treated by our dermatologists in Gainesville, FL, with Dermatology Associates. No matter what causes your hair loss, our medical dermatology team will work with you to find the right treatment to help ensure optimal results. We are committed to providing our patients with the highest-quality hair loss treatments available with personalized treatment plans and state-of-the-art equipment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

What Is Hair Loss?

Hair loss occurs when a person experiences unexpected, significant loss of hair. Generally, humans shed 50-100 single hairs per day. This rate of hair shedding is part of a natural balance of the hair growth cycle when some hairs fall out while others grow in their place. If this balance becomes interrupted and more hair falls out than grows, hair loss occurs. Hair loss can range from mild hair thinning to complete baldness. This can happen for many different reasons and happen all at once or gradually and over time. It’s even possible for a person to have more than one hair-loss condition simultaneously. Medically, hair loss may fall into several categories. Final evaluation is required to determine the cause and possible treatment.

What Causes Hair Loss?

There is a wide range of hair loss causes. Hair loss can be caused by many factors, which can determine whether your hair falls out gradually or abruptly, thins, can regrow on its own, requires treatment to regrow, or needs immediate clinical care to prevent the hair loss from becoming permanent. Some causes of hair loss may include the following.

  • Hormonal Changes
  • Hereditary Hair Shaft Abnormalities
  • Acquired Hair Shaft Abnormalities
  • Age-Related Changes To Hair Growth
  • Skin Disease And Health Conditions
  • Certain Drugs And Medications
  • Burns And Traumatic Injuries
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Cosmetic Procedures
  • Certain Medical Conditions
  • Poor Diet And High Stress

Types Of Hair Loss

Hair loss may be linked to a person’s genetics, but different medical and behavioral factors may likewise interrupt the hair growth cycle and cause hair loss. At Dermatology Associates, our Gainesville dermatologists specialize in treating hair and scalp disorders, identifying the type of hair loss and its cause to determine the best treatment. There are many types of hair loss, including the following.

Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia, or hereditary pattern baldness, is the most common type of hair loss. It is commonly referred to as male pattern hair loss or female pattern hair loss. This condition is hereditary and can typically be managed with medication or surgery. In men, hair loss can begin any time after puberty and progress for years or decades thereafter. It generally starts above the temples and continues around the perimeter and the top of the head, leaving a hair ring at the scalp’s bottom. In many men with this condition, hair loss eventually leads to male pattern baldness. In women, hair slowly thins all over the scalp, but the hairline usually doesn’t recede. Many women experience this type of hair loss as a natural part of the aging process, though hair loss can occur any time after puberty. Female pattern hair loss can make hair thin dramatically, though it rarely results in baldness.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that occurs when many hair follicles on the scalp go into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle (telogen), but the next growth phase does not occur. This results in hair falling out all over the scalp without new hair replacing it. This condition typically does not lead to complete hair loss, though it can cause 300–500 hairs to fall out each day, and the hair may appear thin, particularly at the crown and temples. This condition may be triggered by a thyroid imbalance, childbirth, surgery, illness, stress, or a fever. It can also be triggered by a vitamin or mineral deficiency (iron) or the use of certain medications prescribed for acne or as a blood thinner. Starting or stopping oral birth control pills may also cause this type of hair loss. Telogen effluvium can become a chronic condition if it lasts longer than six months. This type of hair loss can last for years in some people.

Anagen Effluvium

Anagen effluvium is characterized by rapid hair loss and resulting from certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. These medications are potent, fast-acting, and can kill cancer cells, but they can also shut down the production of hair follicles and other parts of the body with hair, such as the eyebrows and eyelashes. Once chemotherapy ends, hair may grow back on its own, though dermatologists may offer medications or treatments to help patients grow hair quicker than without treatment.

Hair Shaft Abnormalities

Several hair shaft abnormalities can lead to hair loss, including loose anagen syndrome, trichotillomania, and traction alopecia. These conditions cause hair strands to thin and weaken, making them vulnerable to breaking. Unlike other hair loss types, this type of hair loss does not occur within the hair follicle but breaks somewhere along the hair shaft (the visible part of the hair strand). This can result in hair thinning and the hair becoming brittle and highly prone to breakage. Making simple changes to the way you treat and style your hair daily can help reverse some of the effects of these hair shaft abnormalities. In some cases, however, medical intervention may be required.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues. In alopecia areata, the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues in the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out and preventing the new hair from growing. Alopecia areata can affect children and adults alike, and it can begin suddenly and without any warning. Hair on the scalp falls out in small patches and usually isn’t painful. This condition can also cause hair on the eyebrows and eyelashes to fall out. Over time, this condition can result in alopecia totalis or complete hair loss. Our dermatologists treat alopecia areata with medications that might help hair regrow. Please contact our dermatology clinic for more information about this condition and treatments.

Tinea Capitis

Scalp ringworm, or tinea capitis, is a fungal infection occurring on the scalp. This is a common cause of hair loss in children. Tinea capitis causes hair to fall out in patches, sometimes in a circular pattern, resulting in bald spots which may expand over time. With this condition, the affected areas often appear red or scaly and may be itchy. Sores or blisters that ooze pus can also appear on the scalp. If a child has scalp ringworm, they may also experience swollen glands in the back of the neck or a low fever caused by the immune system trying to fight this infection. In many cases, our dermatologists can prescribe oral antifungal medications to help patients eliminate the fungus. If diagnosed and treated early, most individuals with tinea capitis have excellent results with hair regrowth.

Involutional Alopecia

Involutional alopecia is a naturally occurring condition where the hair gradually becomes thin and fragile over time and with the natural aging process. As people age, more of their hair follicles go into their resting phase, while the remaining hairs tend to become shorter and fewer, resulting in the hair appearing thin and sparse. While nothing can stop the natural aging process, certain treatments and medications may help encourage healthy hair growth and promote fuller, thicker, and more numerous hair strands.

Scarring Alopecia

Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia,  is a rare form of hair loss in which inflammation destroys the hair follicles and causes scar tissue to develop in the place of the follicles. Once scar tissue forms in this area, the hair does not regrow. Hair loss can begin so slowly that symptoms are not noticeable, or the hair may start to shed and fall out abruptly and all at once. In cases where symptoms are evident, symptoms may include severe itching, swelling, and red or white lesions on the scalp that may look similar to a rash. This type of hair loss can affect individuals of all ages and genders.

Who Gets Hair Loss?

Humans’ hair follicles are all formed during their fetal growth stages. As such, it is inevitable that with age and over time, we all will notice some degree of hair loss later in life. Hair loss can affect males and females, children and adults, and individuals with any hair color and any type of hair. Hair loss can occur quickly or slowly and in stages, and the hair may fall out all at once or strand by strand. Hair loss can be an isolated issue or a condition associated with another disease or condition. The effects of hair loss can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause of the hair loss.

How Does Hair Grow?

Hair grows on almost all humans’ skin surfaces, excluding the hands, soles of the feet, lips, and eyelids. Hair that is light, fine, and short is known as vellus hair, while thicker, darker, and longer hair is known as terminal or androgenic hair. The hair goes through three cycles of growth: the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase.

  • Anagen phase. The anagen phase, or growing phase, can last from 2–8 years. This phase generally refers to the vast majority of hair that grows on the head.
  • Catagen phase. The catagen phase, or the transition phase, occurs when the hair follicles shrink. This phase takes approximately 2–3 weeks.
  • Telogen phase. The telogen phase, or the resting phase, takes about  2–4 months. At the end of this phase, the hair falls out, and the regrowth process begins.

After the telogen phase, the next anagen phase begins as new hair grows in the same follicle. Hairs like eyelash hairs, arm hairs, leg hairs, and eyebrow hairs have a short anagen phase of about one month, while hair on the scalp can last up to six years or even longer. If the natural hair cycle is disrupted, or if the hair follicle becomes damaged, then the hair may fall out more quickly than it can regenerate, leading to a receding hairline, hair falling out in patches, or overall thinning, among other symptoms of hair loss.

Hair Loss Treatment

In most cases, hair loss treatment depends on a patient’s diagnosis. Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available and can help reverse hair loss or at least slow its effects. With some conditions, hair can regrow without treatment. Treatments for hair loss may include medications and surgery. If the hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease is necessary to stop the effects of hair loss. If certain medications cause hair loss, your doctor may advise you to consider alternative options. With hair loss treatment, infections should be treated, deficiencies should be remedied, causative drugs may be discontinued, inflammation can be suppressed, and certain treatments may be available for those with specific hair loss conditions. Contact us for more information.

How Is Hair Loss Diagnosed?

In most hair loss cases, a careful history and full physical examination from a dermatologist can generally result in the correct diagnosis of hair loss. Additional tests may be performed to confirm a diagnosis. These tests can include a hair-pull test performed to determine the relative proportion of anagen and telogen hairs, a wood lamp examination, swabs of pustules or lesions for bacterial and viral culture, skin scrapings and hair clippings for mycology, and blood tests for hematology, thyroid function, and serology. Please contact our office for additional information about our protocols for diagnosing hair loss.

How To Prevent Hair Loss

Unfortunately, most types of hair loss cannot actively and completely be prevented. Fortunately, certain steps can help reduce the likelihood of developing certain forms of hair loss. Your dermatologist may recommend drying your hair naturally or with a hairdryer on a cool setting, minimizing chemical hair treatments, and using loose hairstyles that avoid traction injuries to hair, among other recommendations. While scarring alopecia is permanent, anagen and telogen hair loss generally stops in time. Early treatment of hair loss causing conditions is essential to helping reduce the effects of hair loss and preserve hair. Additionally, treatment of inflammatory diseases can help reduce the hair loss effects. Hair loss can be disguised or covered temporarily, while hair replacement techniques such as wigs, hairpieces, and surgery may also be beneficial.