Hair Falling Out in Clumps: Causes & Treatment

    Hair loss is a perfectly normal daily occurrence. You lose hair while nodding off in your morning Zoom meetings, some hair falls out while you're stretching out a lunch break, and you'll probably lose a few more when you sumo slam into bed to close off the day.

    On average, 80 to 100 hair strands are lost on a daily basis. This may sound like a lot until you remember that around 80,000 to 120,000 hairs crowd your hair at any given moment. 

    However, there are times when you lose more than a few hairs, enough to get you thinking. In such instances, you'll find more hair strands in the shower drain, others on your clothing, while some may litter around your home.

    To understand why this happens, we'll be checking out the causes of hair loss in women, as well as the treatment options available to manage it.

    What Causes Hair Loss in Women

    Because men have obvious bald patches and fewer genius ways of concealing hair loss (thanks wigs!), it may be easy to assume that losing hair is a largely male experience. 

    In reality, however, pattern hair loss, the most common form of hair loss will be experienced by  40 percent of women by the time they are fifty. 

    This may be caused by a number of reasons:

    Genetics

    To understand how your genes can affect hair loss, it's important to remember that your hair goes through 4 stages of growth: the anagen or growth phase, the catagen phase where the follicle transitions, as well as the telogen phase where your hair strands rest in their follicles without actively growing. The exogen phase is where your hair sheds.

    You may experience hair loss as your body's excessive response to androgens — hormones that contribute to your growth and reproductive abilities. This form of hair loss is known as androgenetic alopecia/female pattern hair loss.

    If you live with this condition, chances are one or both of your parents, and perhaps even grandma has it too. Your genes can cause the activation of androgen receptors, which may shorten the growth phase.

    A shortened anagen phase may cause thinner and shorter hairs to grow until eventually, they don't even penetrate your skin.

    Hormones

    Hormones aren't just great for acne and PMS, they may also be responsible for hair loss.

    While testosterone is typically associated with puberty and other sexual functions in men, it also promotes reproductive and non-reproductive function in women.

    Sometimes, free testosterone in your body may wander off and bind to androgen receptors in the hair bulb and the dermal papilla which helps to regulate hair growth. This can cause the miniaturization of hair follicles.

    In other instances, free testosterone is converted into the tongue twister — dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT may also bind to androgen receptors to shrink hair follicles and cause hair loss.

    Menopause

    Hitting the menopause milestone may sometimes come with the unfair exchange of a monthly cycle for hair loss.

    This is because your body produces less estrogen and progesterone while undergoing the change. These hormones are usually great for promoting hair growth and health.

    When their production is reduced, there is more room for higher levels of androgens like testosterone in the body. A quick glance upwards will remind you how not great that can be for your hair's health.

    Thyroid issues

    When the thyroid gland is performing at its best, it helps to regulate metabolism, body growth and development as well as hair follicle health. When things start to go south and it produces too little of the thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much of it (hyperthyroidism), you may notice certain differences with your hair.

    Hypothyroidism may cause delays in your hair reaching the anagen phase, which can cause you to lose hair without any replacements. As well as increased telogen hairs before shedding. This condition leads to changes in hair texture and scalp alopecia.

    Excessive amounts of the thyroid hormone may also lead to soft, fine, and greasy hairs which have reduced strength and thinning shafts.

    Iron deficiency anemia

    If you are experiencing hair loss, it may be time to look through your diet to see if you are getting enough red meat, beans, and other foods containing high levels of iron.

    Iron is an essential mineral which your body and hair need for good health. Without it, you may feel weak, your immunity could be compromised, and there is a chance for hair loss to be a part of the fallout.

    This is because an iron deficiency may prevent your hair cells from getting enough oxygen to grow. Iron is also necessary for the regulation of hair cells like keratinocytes. Without it, hair health may be compromised.

    Autoimmune diseases

    A few lost hair strands are usually nothing to worry about, but when hair is lost at an alarming rate and volume, it could be a sign of something more serious at hand.

    Autoimmune diseases like lupus, alopecia areata, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and others may also lead to hair loss.

    How to Treat Hair Loss in Women

    The good news is, whether your hair loss is caused by a nutrient deficiency, hormones or an autoimmune disease, there are proven ways to manage it.

    Some of these measures include:

    Minoxidil

    If you're experiencing hair loss, you've probably come across this product in a top Google search for hair loss treatments.

    Topical minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication for androgenetic alopecia. It works by acting as a vasodilator i.e it tells your blood vessels to open wide so more nutrients and oxygen can flow to the hair and other cells where it is applied for their improved health.

    It also works to elongate the growth phase of the hair, so more follicles are produced to replace lost hairs.

    Minoxidil is sold under the brand name Rogaine®. It is available as a 2% topical solution or 5% foam to treat female pattern baldness.

    Spironolactone

    This name may ring a bell if you fought the good fight against acne. It has however been used in recent times as an off-label treatment of hair loss in women.

    Spironolactone may be used as an anti-androgen to prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It may also be useful in preventing the production of androgens and has been proven to improve or stabilize hair loss in women. It is however prohibited for use in pregnant women.

    Dietary changes

    Where hair loss is caused by iron deficiency, your healthcare provider may recommend that you eat more foods that are rich in iron and other nutrients that improve hair health.

    Iron supplements may also be advisable where you experience iron deficiency due to heavy periods.

    Hair transplant

    In special circumstances, hair loss may be remedied with a hair transplant. This process involves taking hair from follicles from one part of the body called the donor sure, to another balding section.

    Hair transplants can be used on people with androgenic alopecia who would like their hair to look more natural and youthful.

    If this option appeals to you, you'll first require a hair loss diagnosis, and must be at least 25 years old. Your donor hair also has to be dense enough for the transplant, while having thicker hair also gives you an edge during this procedure.

    It's always important to speak with a healthcare provider before making decisions that may affect your personal and hair health.

    In Conclusion

    Whether or not we realize it, we're very attached to our hair and the many ways we can play with it. This is why losing hair, especially at an alarming rate can be scary to experience.

    Any number of factors can lead to hair loss in women: genes, hormones, menopause, a nutrient deficiency, etc. But for almost every hair loss cause, remedies like minoxidil, anti-androgen medications, and nutrient supplements are available.

    Reach out to your healthcare provider before deciding on the appropriate course of action for your hair loss.

    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.