It is common for men and women to experience thinning hair and male pattern baldness as they age, but hair loss can occur for a number of reasons.
It can be devastating because hair loss is not a cosmetic issue, although those with hair loss may look at it that way, but may be a sign of underlying illnesses.
Millions are affected by hair loss
Male-pattern hair loss, or baldness as some prefer, increases with age in adults and affects 80% of men by the age of 80, said Erica Gyorfi, physician assistant in Dermatology at Marshfield Clinic Health System.
“Female-pattern hair loss increases with age in adults, peaking after menopause. About one-third of women aged 70 years and older are affected,” Gyorfi said.
Causes of hair loss
Thinning hair can be a common pattern as men and women get older, however there are other causes that may also contribute to hair loss including stressors, hairstyles, nutritional deficiencies, medications, weight loss, health conditions such as illness, anemia, hypothyroidism or autoimmune conditions.
The most common cause of hair thinning and balding is hereditary, which can be true for female or male pattern hair loss. This is called androgenetic alopecia. There are other hair loss conditions that can be temporary and others that are irreversible, which are called scarring alopecias.
“If there is concern for hair loss, I do recommend discussing with a health care professional such as their primary care provider and/or seeing a dermatology provider to evaluate further,” Gyorfi said.
At time of visit, further evaluation with lab work or scalp biopsy may be considered. Depending on the type of hair loss, treatment may include topical medications, steroid injections and oral medications. Hair transplants are another option, however this can be costly. Hair prosthetics can be considered instead of, or in addition to, treatment.
As many people do develop hair loss, it can be considered normal and not necessary to go ahead with treatment, but it is helpful to be aware of your options. If desired, begin evaluation and treatment early.