Hair loss is something we will all experience in our lifetime to a certain degree, but when it occurs in extreme situations, it can be very distressing. What actually causes hair loss completely depends on the type of condition.
For men who face male-pattern baldness, the condition is hereditary and runs in the family. It is caused due to hair follicles being oversensitive, caused by too much of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) being produced. The hair will become thinner and grow for a shorter period of time, meaning that the individual gradually goes bald over time.
For female-pattern baldness, the cause is still unknown, with some studies suggesting it may be linked to hormonal changes after menopause.
This condition is ultimately down to an autoimmune response. It can occur at any age, but mostly affects teenagers and young adults. Some 60 per cent of those affected develop their first bald patch before they are 20-years old.
Your body's immune system will often attack any incoming bacteria or viruses, but it may start attacking your hair follicles instead. The reason behind this is still exactly not known. It is therefore not surprising that alopecia areata is common among those who have autoimmune conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease and vitiligo. Furthermore, according to NHS figures, around five percent of those that suffer from Down's Syndrome will face alopecia areata, due to physical development being halted.
It has been estimated that around 20 per cent of those with Alopecia areata have a family history of the condition, meaning that it can be inherited, but this is not always set in stone.
This is caused when your hair follicles are permanently damaged. It is linked to a series of other conditions such as scleroderma (hard and itchy skin caused by poor connective tissues), lichen planus (a non-infectious itchy rash), discoid lupus, folliculitis decalvans (a rare form of alopecia that most commonly affects men), and frontal fibrosing alopecia (a type of alopecia that affects postmenopausal women).
This is usually spurred on when individuals take medical treatments for cancer, especially chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. It is important to note that not all cancer treatments will cause hair loss, and sometimes the hair loss is not even noticeable.
This hair loss is temporary and it can be caused by a series of bodily reactions. These include hormonal changes, emotional or physical stress, alterations in the diet, or illnesses such as a severe infection, cancer or liver disease. Some medications may also cause this temporary hair loss, such as anticoagulants that reduce the ability of your blood to clot or beta-blockers used in high blood pressure cases.
By determining exactly what type of baldness you have, you can determine what is causing it. If your hair is starting to thin by itself, it is wise to seek medical advice as soon as possible.