Q: I am a 54-year-old housewife. My problem is that my hair has been thinning. This condition I probably inherited from my mother because she and her two sisters have the same problem. What causes hair loss in women? Is there anything I can do to stop my falling hair? --firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: There are many causes of falling hair in women including hormonal disturbances brought about by pregnancy and some endocrine diseases; psychological stress and disorders; crash dieting; infections (fungal or bacterial); skin diseases like seborrhea and psoriasis; systemic illnesses like cancer and lupus erythematosus; drugs like some anti-cancer medications; physical and chemical trauma to the scalp as in excessive hair brushing or chemical burning of the scalp during a visit to the beauty parlor; and, alopecia areata, a condition of unknown cause that is characterized by well-circumscribed patches of baldness. But the most common-and this is most probably what causes your problem-is androgenetic alopecia, a hereditary condition that is more pronounced in men than in women that is why it is otherwise called male pattern baldness.
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by genetic sensitivity of hair follicles to androgens or male hormones, which becomes more pronounced as one ages. Androgens are hormones that are produced by the testes (in males) and adrenals (in both sexes). Testicular androgens are more physiologically active than adrenal androgens, thus, baldness is more common in men. However, the androgens produced by the adrenals of women have the same effect, albeit to a lesser degree, on hair growth as testicular androgens. It is thus not uncommon for women to experience thinning hair as they age. In fact, about 10 percent of women have significant hair loss by the time they are in their 40s. At sixty, 40% of them have cosmetically noticeable hair loss-a few even go completely bald.
Many cases of …