- Hair loss could be a symptom of a larger medical issue.
- 80 million people in the United States deal with hair loss related to aging or genetics, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
- But hair loss can also be a symptom of a larger medical issue a person may have, like hypothyroidism or lupus.
- Here’s how you can tell if your hair loss is a sign of something more serious.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Hair loss is often inevitable. In most cases, it occurs due to aging and depends largely on genetics.
This type of hair loss is called androgenetic alopecia and affects an estimated 80 million people in the United States, both men and women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Other times, however, hair loss is a symptom of a larger medical issue. Medication or a systemic illness can sometimes be the cause of hair loss, dermatologist Dr. Jerry Shapiro told INSIDER.
In these cases, the hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms, like rashes, lack of energy, or muscles aches that just won’t go away.
Here are the signs that suggest your hair loss could be more serious than aging or a genetic predisposition.
You’re losing eyelash or eyebrow hair.
- Hair loss in multiple areas could signal an autoimmune problem.
- lina smith/Flickr
“If you notice hair loss on other parts of the body [besides the scalp], something more is going on,” Dr. Shapiro said.
If you lose hair from your eyebrows or eyelashes, it could mean you have a serious form of the autoimmune condition alopecia. Unlike androgenetic alopecia, other types of the condition like alopecia areata or alopecia universalis can cause hair loss in greater quantities and in areas of the body besides the scalp, according to Healthline.
That’s because the body mistakes the hair follicles as dangerous and attacks them, causing the hair to fall out of the follicles on various parts of the body.
Other autoimmune conditions that could cause non-scalp hair loss include thyroid disease and lupus. Doctors can use blood work to determine the exact cause of hair loss.
You feel sluggish all of the time.
- You might not be eating properly.
Hair loss accompanied by a lack of energy could mean you’re malnourished or not getting enough of the essential nutrients your body needs.
If a person doesn’t get enough zinc, for example, they may experience diarrhea, severe weight loss, and hair loss as side effects, in addition to feeling sluggish. Being generally malnourished can also lead to hair loss.
The best way to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need is to eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh produce, healthy fats like nuts, protein, and water, according to Healthline.
If you think you’re malnourished, speak to your healthcare provider about potential solutions like working with a dietitian.
Read more: The only things that actually cure baldness, according to science
Your muscles ache.
- At first, a person hypothyroidism could show no symptoms.
When thinning hair and muscle aches occur simultaneously, it’s possible you have hypothyroidism, a type of hormonal autoimmune hormone imbalance.
At first, a person with hypothyroidism could show no symptoms, but as their body deals with the hormone imbalance, they may notice fatigue, weight gain, muscle aches, and hair loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Hypothyroidism is treatable. If you are diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, a doctor can prescribe medications that replace the hormones your body cannot make on its own.
Your nails feel brittle.
- Your body could be lacking iron.
Iron deficiency, which is considered a type of anemia, happens when the body can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells. If a person lacks them, they may experience side effects like brittle nails and hair loss, Dr. Shapiro said.
Iron deficiency can also make a person feel constantly tired and weak. Other symptoms include chest pain and cold hands and feet, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Iron supplements can help treat the condition, but a doctor might also ask what medications you’re taking since some antibiotics can interfere with iron absorption.
You have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and you’re taking medication for it.
- These medications can cause hair loss.
- Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDER
Medications for lowering cholesterol like simvastatin and atorvastatin often come with hair loss as a side effect, according to Dr. Shapiro. The chances of this are rare, with just 1% of people who take statin-based medications reporting hair loss, according to Harvard Medical School.
Blood pressure medications that are also beta blockers have been known to cause hair loss, although doctors are still unsure about the exact mechanism at play.
It’s up to you and your healthcare provider to weigh the options before stopping or starting a medication that could be potentially related to hair loss.
“People have to see their doctors to determine if [the hair loss] is medicine-related, then they may want to stop, but other times they may not,” Dr. Shapiro said.
You have a rash on your face or body.
- An autoimmune disease could be the culprit.
Lupus, like hypothyroidism or an iron deficiency, is an autoimmune disease with hair loss as a common symptom. Additionally, lupus can cause full-body rashes as a response to organs becoming inflamed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Oftentimes, these rashes will come and go and are referred to as “flares.” Other lupus symptoms include dry eyes and joint pain, so if you notice any of these effects, you should see your doctor.
- If your hair loss is out of the ordinary, it could be linked to a greater issue.
Whether you notice it or not, hair shedding is a normal, natural occurrence that takes place on a daily basis. Healthline reports that out of the 100,000+ hairs on our scalps, roughly 50 to 100 strands normally fall out per day.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many. If your shower drain is clogged with hair after each shower and your bedroom floor is scattered with falling strands on a daily basis, you may be experiencing abnormal hair loss.
It’s important to monitor your tresses, as excessive hair loss and lack of regrowth can mean an array of underlying issues, including illnesses.
Here are some potential reasons why you may be experiencing hair loss.
Hair loss can be a symptom of various health issues.
- You’ll probably want to speak to your doctor.
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A variety of health concerns – extending from hormonal changes to anemia and protein deficiency – can lead to hair loss. One of the most common health issues that leads to excess hair loss is alopecia, which is an autoimmune condition that causes the destruction of hair follicles.
Mental health issues, such as severe anxiety and stress, can also lead to balding.
“Be inquisitive regarding your health in order to address any hair loss issues,” Peter Lamas, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Peter Lamas hair care line, told INSIDER. “When you notice a change and your hair is thinning, see a doctor to address any health concerns that could be impacting your hair loss.”
Medications can also lead to hair loss.
- If it’s raising red flags, talk to your doctor.
If you’re taking any medication or are on a routine medical treatment (such as chemotherapy), then you may experience hair loss.
Although it’s not always preventable, you may want to check the side effects of your medications and talk to your doctor to find out more.
Your excessive hair loss could be hereditary.
- There are products that can help.
- Cushy Spa/Flickr
In some cases, your genetics may be at the root of your hair loss. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to sway your DNA.
If you’re aware that balding and hair loss is common in your family, you can take preventative measures to keep your hair and follicles healthy. Lamas suggests using scalp and hair products targeted to restore hair growth, as well as topical scalp treatments and medications.
Pregnancy can also lead to hair loss.
- It could be partially due to hormonal changes.
- Dejan Dundjerski / Shutterstock
When you’re pregnant, your body goes through major hormonal changes and stress – two big factors in hair loss. This type of hair loss can also occur post-pregnancy.
People who identify as men are more likely to lose their hair than people who identify as women.
- Men oftentimes experience balding on the crown area of their head.
- The Sun Photo/Shutterstock
This is known as “male pattern baldness.” According to WebMD, as many as 85% of men go through some type of hair loss in their lifetime, so it’s much more common for men to experience balding than women.
“Men commonly lose their hair only on the crown area, while women tend to lose hair all over, that’s why hair transplants for women are not recommended,” Lamas told INSIDER.
As you age, your risk of hair loss increases.
- But, some preventative measures might help.
It’s a common part of aging. Research published in “The International Journal of Women’s Dermatology” reports that 38% of women over the age of 50 report noticeable hair thinning and hair loss.
“With aging, it is not uncommon to see hair loss or obvious thinning of the hair in women as they enter their 50s, 60s, and continuing beyond,” Lamas told INSIDER.
Unfortunately, this is also another problem that can’t be solved once it arises. The key to keeping your hair from falling out is by taking preventative measures and maintaining the health of your hair, said Lamas.
Over-styling your hair can cause fallout.
- Heat damage might cause you to lose more hair.
Over-styling your hair can cause extreme amounts of damage. Certain styles that cause tension on your tresses can lead to excess stress that can cause breakage and damage, Lamas told INSIDER.
“Vigorous styling can torture weakened hair and affect the hair root, with the probability of your hair not growing back,” Lamas said. He also points out that using heated hair tools like straighteners and curling wands can also cause damage to your hair that can lead to balding.
But, there are a few things that may help with managing and preventing hair loss.
- It’s important to be delicate with your hair while it’s wet.
Lamas suggests avoiding hairstyles that pull on the hairline. And, to avoid wrapping your hair in a towel after showering, since the tension created on your delicate wet hair can cause tearing and snapping of strands.
He also suggests limiting your usage of tools that produce severe heat. When using a heated hair tool, always apply a heat protectant to your hair beforehand.
Lastly, Lamas said those looking to prevent hair loss should be wary of chemically-formulated processing treatments that use harsh chemicals and toxins.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
- Keeps co-founders Demetri Karagas and Steven Gutentag
- Courtesy Keeps
- Keeps is a startup that connects men with preventative hair loss treatments like generic Rogaine and Propecia.
- So far, Keeps has raised $7.5 million from investors including Maveron, First Round Capital, Greycroft Partners and Imaginary Ventures.
- It’s part of a trend of connecting patients more directly to care and prescriptions.
Steven Gutentag didn’t know where to turn when he started noticing his hairline wasn’t where it once was.
Sure, he’d known it was coming – he had family members who had lost their hair early as well – but he hadn’t expected it to happen in his 20s. Gutentag was working at Google at the time and didn’t know how to fix what he was seeing.
Searching the Internet was more confusing than helpful, but eventually he was connected to a hair loss dermatologist who recommended the two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss, known by their branded names as Rogaine and Propecia.
The experience sparked his interest in making that process smoother for others, especially for younger men just beginning to lose their hair.
So in January 2018, Gutentag and his co-founder Demetri Karagas launched Keeps, a startup that connects men to doctors who specialize in treating hair loss and then ships medication to those men directly.
The company has raised $7.5 million from investors including Maveron, First Round Capital, Greycroft Partners and Imaginary Ventures.
Here’s how it works
Working with dermatologists who specialize in hair loss, Gutentag and Karagas created a questionnaire that evaluates the hair loss a particular man is dealing with. The questionnaire, as well as photos, are used to evaluate the severity of the hair loss. Then, patients consult with one of the doctors in Keeps’ network. The first visit’s free, but subsequent visits cost $30 each, according to Keeps’ website.
From there, those doctors can suggest the two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss: Finasteride, known by its branded name Propecia, and Minoxidil, otherwise known as Rogaine. Taken as a pill, Finasteride comes with side effects including loss of interest in sex, impotence, swelling and dizziness. Minoxidil is available as over the counter, meaning you don’t need a prescription to access it. According to the National Library of Medicine, results can take as much as four months to show up, and scalp irritation, itching, and dryness are common side effects to the medication.
Keeps, in partnership with a pharmacy, will then mail you private label versions of the medications tagged with the Keeps crown logo and prescription details.
- Keeps prescription packaging.
- Courtesy Keeps
For $25 a month, Keeps will supply you with finasteride, and for $10 a month, minoxidil. For comparison, a three-month supply for a topical solution of branded Rogaine costs about $42 via Amazon.
Marketing to consumers
It’s an attempt to grow a hair-loss market that’s been in decline over the past decade.
To reach these groups of men, Gutentag said the company has been advertising through TV and podcast ads.
It’s part of a new business model that goes more directly to consumers. Instead of seeing a doctor who can then help you get a referral for a dermatologist who could prescribe treatments for male-pattern baldness, Keeps connects you directly to those doctors and in turn connects you to the prescriptions themselves.
There seems to be interest in this kind of approach: Gutentag said the company is growing 50% month over month.
Keeps has some competition. Other men’s health companies that have direct relationships with patients have sprung up such as Hims, which addresses hair loss and erectile dysfunction among other areas, and Roman, which is focused on erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra.