Female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is the condition that describes hair loss in women. Both men and women lose hair due to age. By the age of 50 years, most women suffer from it. Two-thirds of women suffer hair loss after menopause. The pattern of hair loss is different than men, though the hair loss is gradual in both cases. In men, the hair loss starts at the temples or the crown. Women, on the other hand, lose hair from their head. Parting areas become wide and the hair starts to thin.
The causes of female pattern baldness can be hereditary or hormonal, that is why it is seen during and after menopause. Women are more sensitive to losing their hair as it affects their beauty, hence treatment is more important for them. It is quite stressful as well, as it affects their looks. In female pattern baldness, scalp visibility increases. This causes anxiety and emotional stress. It is indeed very disturbing to see one’s luxurious hair thin and fall out. It is important to seek the advice of a doctor as soon as hair loss is noticed, as it can be treated at an early stage.
We already know that hair follows a pattern of resting and re-growth. Thus, a loss of 50 to 100 hairs each day is considered normal. When it exceeds this amount, female pattern baldness can be the cause. The growing phase of the hair slows down and it takes longer for new hair to come. This causes hair to become thinner and ultimately leads to baldness, though women are less likely to become completely bald.
There are three stages of hair loss in women. In the first stage, the hair begins to thin. In the second stage, the hair partition begins to widen and thinning also increases. The third stage starts showing bald patches on the scalp.
Why does female pattern baldness occur? The main cause can be genetic as the condition may run in families. Hormones too affect the hair: hormonal changes in the body cause hair loss to occur. Usually, oestrogen stops the negative effects of androgen but if hormonal balance is disturbed, hair fall will be triggered. During and after menopause, oestrogen levels drop down gradually, which cause women to suffer hair loss.
Other causes of hair loss are mental stress, poor nutrition, sleep disorders, effects of illnesses and medicines. In many cases, the use of contraceptive drugs disturbs the hormonal balance and will lead to hair loss.
Female pattern baldness usually occurs in women after 50 years. A few women might face this problem earlier, which could be due to hereditary factors.
Female pattern baldness is diagnosed by observation. Though it does not require tests, doctors might recommend a blood test to find out any other cause of female pattern baldness. The blood test will measure the levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals. Since hair loss can be a result of deficiencies, the blood test can point to treatment options.
Treatment consists of rectifying diet deficiencies if any. Patients are advised diet rich in Vitamin E and to eat green vegetables and fruit. A protein-rich diet is recommended. Soya beans, whole grains, cheese, green vegetables and fruits help in nourishing the hair.
Stress to the scalp is to be avoided, so patients are advised to give up tight styling and heat treatment methods. In certain cases, medications such as minoxidil may be prescribed. Minoxidil is quite effective in hair growth and is prescribed for young patients. However, it has to be used regularly. Another line of treatment is hormonal medications that block the effects of androgen. It is important to seek medical help and not take the medicines on one’s own without advice.
A number of natural treatments are also available. Ayurveda offers a number of beneficial foods and preparations that are known to be very effective. A regular oil massage of natural oils such as almond oil or mustard oil nourishes the hair and scalp.
Hair is a mark of beauty of women. It is important to look after it. Though hair loss due to age cannot be prevented, women should take extra care of it. Heat based styling methods must be minimised, as also use of hair cosmetics, especially those containing chemicals. Select a shampoo with natural ingredients that do not make the hair dry. Women are also advised to use oral contraceptive pills only when required and that too under medical supervision. These medicines play with hormones and affect the body’s natural systems. Finally, I have always advocated the avoidance of stress. Yoga and other methods help in calming the body and result in better health, including that of hair.