How common is hair loss?

Hair loss, or alopecia, is very common. Many conditions can cause it. Hair loss is divided into 2 categories:

  • Scarring, which leads to permanent destruction of the hair follicle.
  • Nonscarring, in which hair follicles remain intact.

The vast majority of hair loss is nonscarring. It includes such conditions as pattern baldness and telogen effluvium, or excessive hair shedding.

The majority of hair loss in both men and women is pattern baldness, also referred to as androgenetic alopecia. Both genetic (family) and hormonal factors play a role in pattern baldness.

Another common cause of hair loss is excessive hair shedding. Common triggers for hair shedding include a major illness, surgery, rapid weight loss, nutritional deficiency, thyroid problems, stress, and certain medications.

What can cause hair loss?

  • Medications, vitamins, or minerals: medications used to treat high blood pressure, heart problems, depression or gout; chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer patients; and in some cases, unusually high levels of vitamin A or low levels of iron or protein. For women, birth control pills can cause hair loss.
  • Illness, including thyroid disease and severe infection.
  • Scalp conditions, including psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and folliculitis.
  • Trauma, including traction alopecia resulting from certain hair styles that cause trauma to the hair follicles, and trichotillomania, or repetitive pulling and breaking of one’s own hair.

Who is a candidate for hair replacement?

  • Men with male-pattern baldness.
  • Some women with thinning hair.
  • A person who has lost some but not all hair as a result of burns or other scalp injuries.

Who is not a candidate for hair replacement?

Hair replacement is not recommended for the following patients:

  • Women with a wide-spread pattern of hair loss.
  • Those who do not have enough "donor" sites (hair-bearing portions of the head from which hair-bearing skin is taken).
  • People who form keloid scars or thick fibrous tissue that can result from trauma, burning, or radiation injury.
  • Those whose hair loss is due to medication.