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Hair loss isn't just a nuisance… it's a signal to head to the doctor

By Dr Ellie Cannon Strands of evidence: Hair loss can point to worse problems Hair loss may sound relatively minor but it is both distressing and common. It should always be investigated, as it can be revealing in regard to your general state of health. Q: I knew I would lose hair after the birth […]

Written by Gary Heron

Posted on: February 22, 2010

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By Dr Ellie Cannon

Strands of evidence: Hair loss can point to worse problems

Hair loss may sound relatively minor but it is both distressing and common. It should always be investigated, as it can be revealing in regard to your general state of health.

Q: I knew I would lose hair after the birth of my child but it’s still falling out nearly a year on – why?
A: General diffuse hair loss after pregnancy is normal and usually occurs between four and ten months after giving birth as oestrogen levels drop. It can continue for longer, but do see your GP as it may be a sign of an iron deficiency or thyroid problem.

Q: My hair is coming out in patches. Is this stress?
A: Not normally. Stressrelated hair loss tends to be general, not patchy. More likely causes would be fungal infections such as ringworm or hairstyles that pull the hair too tight – known as traction alopecia. A relatively common cause of patchy hair loss is alopecia areata, which can also result in total baldness.

Q: I think I have alopecia areata. What can be done?
A: While distressing, this resolves spontaneously in three to six months, so many GPs would advocate watching and waiting. If treatment is to be started, you can use lotions containing minoxidil (Regaine) or your doctor may prescribe topical steroids. Many will try an antifungal shampoo first, as fungal infections can mimic this type of alopecia.

Q: My hair is thinning and my skin is dry – do I have a thyroid problem?
A: Thyroid disorders do cause hair and skin problems. An underactive thyroid tends to cause hair to grow much more slowly and become coarse. Hair loss can be patchy and the skin dry and scaly. An overactive thyroid would be more likely to cause diffuse hair loss. Thyroid problems can be diagnosed by a simple blood test.

Q: Could my blood-thinning tablets cause hair loss?
A: Yes – it is associated with the blood-thinning drugs warfarin and heparin. Many medicines can cause hair loss, including those that treat gout and thyroid problems, as well as the contraceptive Pill.

Do you have Hair Loss Problems, read our Hair Loss Help