11 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health
Posted 1/20/2017 by UHBlog
As we age, most of us will develop at least a few strands – or, more likely, a whole head n of gray tresses. But even in our youth, we all lose hair daily. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about.
“Your hair is constantly going through phases of growth and loss,” says family medicine specialist Jordan Baker-Horn, DO. “Hair loss in and of itself is normal and everybody should expect to lose some amount of hair.”
There is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to hair color, texture, strength and tendency to shed. But, according to Dr. Baker-Horn, sudden or more pronounced changes in your mane may be attributed to an underlying health issue or the treatment for an existing condition. These include:
- Thyroid disorder. When working properly, the thyroid controls the hormones that regulate body temperature and metabolism, among other bodily functions. But when it’s not doing its job, your locks may develop a more brittle texture that leads to increased breakage or hair loss.
- Iron deficiency and/or anemia. Fatigue, pale skin and leg cramps may be the most well-known symptoms of iron deficiency. But the low levels of iron, red blood cells or hemoglobin associated with iron deficiency and/or anemia can also promote hair loss.
- Cushing’s syndrome. This occurs when the body overproduces cortisol and is usually marked by weight gain, a moon-shaped face or a “buffalo” hump on the back of the neck. But in some cases, the condition also causes hair to become more brittle.
- Protein deficiency. A lack of protein (either from animal- or plant-based sources) may cause your hair to thin.
- Pregnancy. Women tend to shed hair more frequently following pregnancy because of hormonal changes.
- Menopause. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone may lead to hair loss in some women.
- Trauma or stress. Consider the stark contrast between how presidents look when they assume office and when they leave the White House. In a matter of four or eight years, their hair becomes increasingly snow-colored.
“Stress increases cortisol levels, which can lead to changes in the pigment of hair,” Dr. Baker-Horn says.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. Also known as cradle cap when it occurs in children, this condition is marked by scaly and greasy patches on the scalp. It is common, harmless and easily treated with antifungal or steroidal creams.
- Dandruff. Also innocuous, dandruff is visible in the hair when dry skin flakes off the scalp. It can be controlled by using a specially formulated dandruff shampoo.
- Chemotherapy. It takes about six months after the last chemotherapy treatment for hair to regrow. When it does, people may find once vibrantly colored hair is now gray or formerly straight hair is now curly.
“After any type of assault to your system, when you reproduce those hair cells, the chemistry of it changes,” Dr. Baker-Horn says.
- Medications. All medications have side effects and hair loss may be among them. Ask your doctor to review your drugs and, if appropriate and possible, prescribe an alternate treatment.
It’s important to remember that most changes in hair texture or color are no cause for alarm.
“Everybody experiences some of that,” Dr. Baker-Horn says. “But if you have concerns about excessive hair loss or bald patches, speak with your physician.”
Jordan Baker-Horn, DO is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Concord Primary Care Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Baker-Horn or any other doctor online.