It's normal for your scalp to lose up to 100 hairs every day. Alopecia, or hair loss, occurs when the scalp loses more hair than normal, or when the lost hair does not grow back. Hair loss may come on suddenly or gradually — and, depending on the cause, is temporary or permanent.
Signs You Should Get Help for Alopecia
Hair loss can be a symptom of something else going on in your body. It's also easier to treat before you lose a lot of hair. Make an appointment with a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in hair, skin and nail problems. The doctor will examine you to find the cause of your hair loss and tell you what you can expect.
Common symptoms of alopecia include:
- Sudden loosening or shedding of hair: It may come out in handfuls when you comb or wash your hair and result in hair thinning.
- Gradual thinning of hair: Hair may recede from the forehead in men. Women may experience a widening where they part their hair. This is the most common type of hair loss.
- Balding in patches: It may affect the scalp, beard or eyebrows.
- Full-body hair loss: Loss of nose hair or eyelashes may leave you more susceptible to infections.
What Causes Alopecia?
You should work with the dermatologist to determine what is causing your alopecia so that the underlying condition can be treated. Some of the common contributing factors to alopecia include:
- Cancer treatments: Some types of radiation therapy and chemotherapy
- Diet: Not enough protein or certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D or iron
- Hair disorders: Includes alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that often causes round patches of hair loss
- Heredity (male-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia): Passed from parents’ genes and the most common cause of hair loss or thinning
- Hormonal changes: From pregnancy, childbirth or menopause
- Medical conditions: Thyroid disease, anemia, lupus and others
- Medications: Includes those used to treat heart problems, high blood pressure, depression and arthritis
- Physical or emotional shock: Such as from childbirth or a major illness
- Scalp infections: Includes ringworm, which is more common in children
Alopecia Treatment at Rush
We offer both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for alopecia. If your hair loss is caused by an underlying condition or reaction to a medication, your hair will often grow back on its own once the condition is treated or medication changed.
Your dermatologist can offer medications and procedures to treat alopecia. Your treatment will depend on what is causing your hair loss.
Nonsurgical Treatments: Medications to Treat Alopecia
- Minoxidil: Slows or stops hair loss and can promote hair growth
- Finasteride: Treats male-pattern baldness by stopping the body from producing a male hormone
- Corticosteroids: Stops inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata
- Topical sensitizers: Deliberately causes an allergic reaction on the scalp that can lead to hair growth
Surgical Procedures to Treat Alopecia
- Hair transplantation: Involves transplanting parts of the scalp with good hair growth to balding areas
- Scalp reduction: Removes bald skin on your head, then closes the space with a hair-covered scalp
- Scalp expansion: Stretches areas of the scalp that have hair on them to reduce balding
Rush Excellence in Alopecia Care
- A diverse team of experts focused on you: Many of our dermatologists have additional training in internal medicine and work closely with our allergy and immunology specialists to provide personalized care and diagnose and treat underlying conditions that may be causing or contributing to your hair loss. The team of specialists includes rheumatologists and endocrinologists who will work with you and your dermatologist to diagnose autoimmune diseases, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disease or other contributing conditions.
- Convenient care close to you: Our dermatologists see patients at a variety of locations, including Chicago, Oak Park, Oak Brook and Aurora/Fox Valley.
- Minimizing hair loss during cancer treatment: For many cancer patients, one of the most devastating side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. But through innovative scalp cooling technology (known as the cooling cap), we are able to minimize hair loss for some types of chemotherapy drugs.
- Emotional support for hair loss: Losing your hair as a result of chemotherapy treatments can be emotionally painful. At Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, a registered cosmetologist and hair loss expert offers a virtual class for anyone experiencing hair changes related to cancer treatment and looking for information on how to manage these changes. Topics covered include initial hair loss, wigs and head coverings, hair regrowth and safe products that can help with achieving each person’s individual hair care goals.