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Hair Loss in Women

Her Hair Loss Help has an outstanding Discussion Forum specifically for women with alopecia and other forms of hair lossWomen experience hair loss because of a number of reasons, such as pregnancy, stress, genetics or an illness. Another cause is Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disorder which results in hair loss.

Women going through any type of hair loss becomes distraught about their changing appearance. Some are comfortable leading their life as someone without hair, but many seek out hair replacement studios to give them back what they have lost.

Unless you yourself have been through sudden and unexpected hair loss, it is nearly impossible to fully understand the emotions that a person must be experiencing. The process going from someone with hair, to someone losing their hair, to someone seeking hair replacement, is a sensitive and personal journey.

What is androgenetic alopecia (AGA)?

Hair loss can be very concerning to womenHereditary balding or thinning is the most common cause of hair loss. The tendency can be inherited from either the mother’s or father’s side of the family. Women with this trait develop thinning hair, but do not become completely bald. The condition is called androgenetic alopecia and it can start in the teens, twenties, or thirties. There is no cure, although medical treatments are available that may help some people.

Hereditary hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is marked by a progressive miniaturization of hair follicles, causing a shortening of the hair’s growth cycle. As the growth phase shortens, the hair becomes thinner and shorter. Eventually there is no growth at all. Because hereditary hair loss is gradual, the sooner treatment is started, the better the chances of results.

What Causes Androgenetic Areata?

Hair follicles contain androgen receptors. In the presence of androgens, genes that shorten the anagen phase are activated, and hair follicles shrink or become miniaturized. With successive anagen cycles, the follicles become smaller (leading to shorter, finer hair), and nonpigmented vellus hairs replace pigmented terminal hairs. In women, the thinning is diffuse, but more marked in the frontal and parietal regions. Even persons with severe androgenetic alopecia almost always have a thin fringe of hair frontally. The remaining hair configuration may resemble a monk’s haircut.

Women with androgenetic alopecia do not have higher levels of circulating androgens. However, they have been found to have higher levels of 5a-reductase (which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone), more androgen receptors, and lower levels of cytochrome P450 (which converts testosterone to estrogen).

Most women with androgenetic alopecia have normal menses, normal fertility, and normal endocrine function, including gender-appropriate levels of circulating androgens. Therefore, an extensive hormonal work-up is unnecessary. If a woman has irregular menses, abrupt hair loss, hirsutism, or acne recurrence, an endocrine evaluation is appropriate. In this situation, total testosterone, free testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and prolactin levels should be obtained.

Because the hair loss in androgenetic alopecia is an aberration of the normal hair cycle, it is theoretically reversible. Advanced androgenetic alopecia, however, may not respond to treatment, because the inflammation that surrounds the bulge area of the follicle may irreparably damage the follicular stem cell.

I’m 32 and I’ve had 4 battles with Alopecia Areata.

Story from a woman who has battled alopecia areata resulting from severe trauma and/or stress:

I’m 32 and I’ve had 4 battles with Alopecia Areata. Every time something major happens I begin to start loosing a patch of hair. First, when I made a huge move across country and left all my family, a spot started. (pretty scary) since it was the first time. The second time, I was in some financial problems, and again it started. The second times, I had deaths in the family a few years apart, and again, the patches came up. It’s a horrible feeling to have a full head of hair, and then all the sudden a small little patch starts and you start praying that it stops or doesn’t get that big. Currently, I have two huge spots on the back of my head that barely have any fuzz at all. In fact, some of the grey hairs stayed, and the brown didn’t. Weird. I’m not on any medications since the other times it grew back fairly quickly (6-9 months), but I think I’m going to find something this time since their much bigger than before.

Thank you for sharing your story!