Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hair Loss is Not Simple Genetics

One of the most commonly suggested causes of hair loss in both men and women is a genetic defect. The fact it may be inherited means it is not your fault when your hair thins and falls out and, perhaps more importantly, the condition is not necessarily something that can be cured. Of course, there is some evidence that hair loss does run in families, but there is more evidence that our lifestyles and medical decisions can be even more important factors in deciding who loses hair and how quickly. We will ignore the cultural effect of changing hairstyles where too much traction in pulling the hair back into a ponytail or comparable style may accelerate hair loss, the effect of a general anesthetic for surgery (curiously, many who undergo gastric bypass surgery often lose the most hair), increased levels of anxiety and stress, and both chemo- and radiotherapy for cancer. The most consistent cause surrounds the level of different hormones in the body. In women, for example, the level of estrogen drops during and after pregnancy, and during the menopause.

This has been directly linked to both the thinning of hair and its loss from the scalp. Some women also lose hair as a reaction to particular oral contraceptives. For obvious reasons, the level of hormones naturally occurring in the male body tends to be more stable. But, in both genders, thyroid problems can affect the production of hormones and produce early baldness in men. Similarly, for a number of reasons, the levels of the hormones may be affected artificially. The most consistent causes stem from the use of steroids which are commonly used for a variety of strictly medical, e.g. to control asthma, and other purposes, e.g. as supplements to promote growth and for strength while weight training. As an adverse side effect, many weight loss products affect the thyroid and hair suffers. Finally, it is not just athletes who discover some diet and other supplements affect the level of testosterone in their bodies. Many who take “natural” dietary and nutritional supplements find out the hard way that some “natural” chemicals affect hair growth and retention.

This should give you pause for thought. Because there are many possible causes of hair loss, you should not guess what is affecting you and self-medicate. The research evidence shows the majority of people are completely unaware that their own lifestyles or the drugs prescribed to them by physicians may be responsible. Always get a formal diagnosis from your regular healthcare professional. If he or she confirms your hair loss is an adverse side effect of drugs or supplements you are using, the remedies will be clear. But, if male pattern baldness is confirmed, propecia is the tried and tested response (albeit not for Olympic athletes like Zach Lund who were banned from competition if they took this drug). Because this drug was developed some time ago, you will now find both the branded and generic propecia (also called finasteride) freely available from most of the online pharmacies. This will save you some serious money while enabling you to both slow hair loss and often encourage some regrowth. However, two small facts should be borne in mind. Propecia works best when it is taken early in the cycle of hair loss. Secondly, hair loss restarts once you stop taking the drug.

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