Problems with thinning hair and actual hair loss are questions which I receive often. And where men are affected more often with total balding, many women are affected as they go through peri-menopause and menopause due to hormonal fluctuations.
Alopecia Areata made news this week when Kayla Martell, Miss Delaware came out to make it known that she is afflicted by this auto-immune disorder that affects approximately two percent of the population, some 4.7 million people in the United States alone.
With all of the attention on this subject matter, I wanted to define the differences in hair loss.
As I mentioned Alopecia Areata is known as an immune disorder. As of very recently a leading genetics researcher found a link between common genetics of those who suffer from Alopecia Areata and those who suffer from other auto-immune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
There is also increasing research that autoimmune illnesses might have a link to sub acute underlying infections; and there is clinical and outcome based proof for instance that when people are treated for an infection not related to their rheumatoid arthritis (RA), that their RA symptoms improve.
There are actually three different forms of Alopecia Areata; Alopecia Areata which is the most common variation which presents itself as round, smooth patches of various sizes; Alopecia Areata Totalis which presents itself as total loss of hair on the scalp; and Alopecia Areata Universalis which is the rarest form and presents itself as the loss of hair over the entire scalp and body.
Alopecia Areata is a highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall our again at any time, and the disease can present itself differently in each person. One of the interesting things is that the hair follicles actually remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the proper signal.
There really are no FDA approved treatments for Alopecia Areata, although there are many options for ‘off-labeled’ use such as cortisone injections or tablets (which suppresses the immune system to deal with the auto-immune condition), topical immunotherapy of other medications and modalities, and topical minoxidil (aka Rogaine).
As a compounding pharmacist, I think there could be a lot of promise with attempting to treat with topical anti-bacterial and anti-fungal preparations.
So what about hair loss that is not auto-immune related?
Hair loss is known as alopecia, and along with hair thinning can happen for many reasons in both men and women. It is interesting to know that 25% of men begin to bald in their thirties, with 66 % either having a balding pattern or being completely bald by the age of sixty.
The reasons for thinning hair and hair loss can be; fungal infections of the scalp, cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy, an overactive thyroid, hormonal imbalance and emotional and mental stress.
By far what I receive questions on is usually related to emotional/mental stress or hormones, and probably in most cases a combination of both.
There is a hormone metabolite known as DHT, and DHT is believed to be a major culprit in hair loss. The reason for the belief is because in people who are balding they do find elevated levels of DHT in their scalps. DHT has been shown to be responsible for shrinking the hair follicle and also tends to create a wax like substance around the hair.
Although with any hormonal condition it’s all about balance. Hormones hold each other in check. And when you are talking about balance you are talking about your hormones, how your hormones are being metabolized and enzymatic activity.
When the DHT is the culprit, which it often is, due to changes of the hormonal and nutritional environment, and enzyme called 5-alpha reductase meets up with testosterone to increase the amount of DHT that is produced.
Obviously it is important to get to the reason for the hair loss. Is it thyroid, estrogen imbalance, or something else like an infection?
Then take the proper steps to reverse the problem.
For more information on all things health as well as how imbalanced hormones can affect overall health, check out iHormones in the Apple App store.

Author's Bio: 

Robert B Kress RPh CCN, also known as the Renegade Pharmacist has been bucking the Big Pharma trend since graduating pharmacy school in 1994 to provide people a balanced, integrative focus on health.
Robert and his wife Amy have owned their own Longevity Pharmacy and now spend their time educating wellness clients as well as other practitioner’s in the ways of integrative health.
Robert and Amy can be found on their website, and offer an new ‘all health’ iphone and ipod application in the Apple App Store – iHormones which provides you what you need to know about natural hormones, nutrients, recent news, tips, food charts and more. Remember…iHormones in the Apple App Store.