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What Your Baldness Is Saying: Healthy Genes or Health Concerns?

By Martha Michael

Health Issues Causing Baldness

A skillful hair stylist can take a matted mop and make it runway ready. But the beauty of a full head of hair makes you more than a head turner. Whether you’re male or female, sometimes a loss of locks signals an underlying health condition.

Natural Hair Loss

There are phases of life when losing hair is part of the natural process. The amount of hair you’re born with depends on your gene pool, but it’s normal for everyone to lose 50 to 100 hairs from the scalp every day, says an article on Harvard Health.

Female and Male Pattern Baldness

The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia. Most people are familiar with male pattern baldness in which the hairline recedes at the forehead. This process can begin at any age -- even the teens. It’s incited by a combination of hormones, age, and an inherited tendency.

Studies show that genes are responsible for about 80 percent of male pattern baldness, according to an article on Healthline. The belief that a man’s baldness gene comes from his mother’s father is a myth; however, it’s passed down through a gene found on the “X” chromosome which males get from their maternal line.

Women can experience thinning and baldness on the crown of their heads as a result of female pattern hair loss. It’s a genetic inheritance, but the combination of genes is unknown. Baldness in females is associated with production of the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estradiol, a process largely responsible for post-menopausal hair loss.

Pregnancy

Hormones take center stage when a woman becomes pregnant so there are profound changes throughout her body, including her skin and hair. The website WhatToExpect.com says that most women find their hair gets thicker during pregnancy and some report a change in texture. Hormonal changes can make their hair grow faster and it can crop up in new places on their body as well.

It’s not uncommon halfway through the pregnancy to see a surge in hair and nail growth, in part due to increased metabolism, blood circulation, and ingesting prenatal vitamins. Because every individual is unique, changes vary; while one woman’s hair turns limp, another sees her hair dry out while another ends up with a frizzy head of hair.

Health-Related Baldness

If you’re finding mats of hair in your brush or you see bald spots forming, you may have a medical condition causing your scalp to respond by shedding. In addition to alarming the person as their looks change, it may signal the need for medical intervention.

An article by MedicalNewsToday offers a list of potential causes and health problems related to baldness.

Nutritional deficiencies - People who engage in extreme dieting will sometimes experience hair loss. Shedding is caused by a deficit in protein intake as well as vitamins such as iron. A blood test will show whether you need to make dietary changes.

Ringworm - Also called tinea capitis, hair loss is a possible symptom when you have ringworm on your scalp. Look for signs that include a small, scaly bald spot, brittle hair, red patches, or ring-like features on your scalp.

Anagen effluvium - When you lose large quantities of hair rapidly, your body may be reacting to a fungal infection, but it can sometimes signal an autoimmune disease. Patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy can also experience hair loss that may involve your scalp hair, plus other parts of your body such as your eyelashes and brows.

Psychological Factors

According to an article on the Mayo Clinic’s website, there are three health conditions in which stress is a factor causing your hair to fall out. Stress plays a role in hair loss when you’re suffering from one of the following:

Alopecia areata - Sometimes brought on by a high level of stress, hair loss occurs when your immune system responds by attacking your hair follicles.

Telogen effluvium - Losing your hair suddenly can be a sign of telogen effluvium in which stress sends follicles into a resting phase. You’ll see bits of hair collecting on your brush or the shower floor.

Trichotillomania - Individuals experiencing emotional problems such as loneliness, tension, or frustration will sometimes engage in trichotillomania, which is evidenced by pulling hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or other parts of the body.

The good news is you can sometimes reverse a trend toward baldness -- or at least slow it down -- depending on the cause. In the case of hair loss caused by stress, many people turn to meditation, yoga, or they reduce their heavy workload.

Maximizing your wellness is always a good idea that can be improved by diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. It wards off negative health effects, makes you feel better, and it’s a signal to others that you have a good head on your shoulders.

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