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Understanding the Cause of Hair Loss

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/25/2007 | Health

It is an unfortunate fact that many men, and a surprisingly high number of women, will suffer from some form of hair loss during their lives and often that hair loss will be permanent. Since hair has been falling out of heads, medical science has been attempting to find the true cause of hair loss.

To understand fully hair loss we need to look at how hair grows and what factors can interfere with this natural process.

Hair growth occurs in two distinct phases, the growth phase known as the Anagen phase and the resting phase known as the Telogen phase. The vast majority of hair on our head (as much as 90%) at any one time is in a 2-7 year growth phase. The remaining hairs are in a resting phase that can last anywhere between two to four months.

A normal rate of hair loss is between 50 to 150 hairs a day. Once a hair has been shed that particular follicle begins a growth phase, as the lost hair now needs to be replaced.

If everything goes according to plan this cycle of growth and rest continues through many cycles during our life.

Hair loss problems can result when this natural cycle is disrupted and the natural fallout rate exceeds that natural re-growth rate. Additionally, certain factors can lead to hair re-growth that is much weaker and thinner than the previous hair that is being replaced.

Here the problem can go unnoticed for many years. Since each hair is being replaced there does not appear to be a problem. However, over the years each re-growth of shed hair is getting progressively weaker and thinner. In this case baldness and hair loss can appear to be a very sudden onset, but it is something that has been active for several years.

Fortunately from the point of view of being able to treat and prevent the problem, science has found the true cause of hair loss.

It is now believed that the cause of hair loss is an increased level of testosterone (that begins in puberty) that eventually leads to an excessive imbalance in another hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone).

If there are large amounts of DHT present, blood supply to the hair follicle is reduced and over time the actual blood vessels that feed each hair follicle begin to shrink, making blood flow to the hair follicles even more difficult.

A deficient blood supply leads to weak, thin hair re-growth, which gets progressively worse over time. The eventual outcome is a growth that is little more than wispy short hair that is barely visible.

At this stage the person is suffering from a condition known as androgenic allopecia, more commonly known as male pattern baldness.

Specifically why and how these levels of DHT get to the level where they create a problem with hair loss is not known. At this point in time the cause is largely attributed to genetic factors.

Apart from our understanding of the causes of hair loss that is more or less permanent, there are several factors affecting men and women that can cause temporary hair loss.

Some of the more common cause of temporary hair loss are; scalp infections; improper use of hair care products; side affects of some medications and medical procedures (surgery and chemotherapy for example) and inadequate nutrition for healthy hair growth.

Usually once the cause of hair loss is established and the appropriate treatment given, hair growth can return to normal.

The most important factor in successfully treating any kind of hair loss is to determine quickly the correct cause of the hair loss and then immediately begin with the appropriate treatment.

For someone experiencing hair loss now or someone who could reasonably expect hair loss in the future based on past family medical history, preventive measures should be taken sooner rather than later.

At the very least an appropriate hair care regime should be in place. As part of this regime adequate nutrition should be stressed, including nutrients that have a known hair growth function such as Biotin, Zinc and the herb Saw Pallmeto.

Today there are many hair loss treatment options available. There is a range of natural over the counter preparations that have undergone some clinical trials and have had some success in stopping hair loss and promoting re-growth of normal healthy hair.

And if the natural way does not deliver the desired results, there are always hair restoration techniques such as hair extensions, hair transplants and wigs that offer even more options to treat hair loss.