and Sudden Hair Loss
Stress Hair Loss
Iron Deficiency & Hair
Drugs that Cause
Female Hair Loss
Women, more than men,
are susceptible to temporary and sudden bouts of hair
loss characterized as hair shedding or "losing
clumps of hair." For example, 95 percent of all
male hair loss is genetic hair loss - male pattern
baldness. In women, hair loss is roughly divided in
half between Genetic causes, and
Non-genetic hair loss causes.
When hair loss in women is sudden with heavy hair
shedding, the cause is most likely, non-genetic and
is treatable and reversable, often with improvements
in 6 months. When hair loss in women, especially those
50 years and older, is Genetic, the hair loss is more
gradual and happens over a longer period of time.
But let's back up some and get a better understanding of
when and how hair grows by learning about the Hair
Growth Cycle. Women should understand the 3 phases of
Growth Cycle before understanding the causes behind
temporary and sudden hair loss.
Non Genetic Cause of Hair Loss
Non Genetic causes of female hair loss fall under 7 broad
1. Nutrional (diet, low iron, too little
vitamin A, too much vitamin A)
2. Hormone (recently having a baby is the
most common cause)
3. Medication (side effects of certain
4. Emotional & Physical Stress (death
of parent, loss of job, surgery, illness)
5. Illness (Thyroid Disease, Lupus, high
6. Hair Diseases: Alopecia Areata, Alopecia
Totalis, Alopecia Universalis, and Tinea Capitis
7 . Traction Alopecia (tight hair styles,
hair pulling, chemical processing)
Nutrional: Nutrional problems stemming
from a poor diet, pregnancy or recently giving birth are
the most common cause of sudden hair loss in women. According
to a study conducted on 153 women from 1995 to 1998, iron
deficiency was the most common cause of hair loss in women.
(1) Please see our article: Iron
Deficiency and Hair Loss
Hormone: Recently having a baby, where
a sudden loss of hormones can occur, and/or there is also
a sudden drop in iron and ferritin levels, can cause non
genetic hair loss in women. "Blood loss during
and after birth may cause a woman to become iron-deficient,
which may result in anemia or hair loss." (2)
Besides iron, hormones may cause temporary hair loss during
or after pregnancy. "The hormonal changes following
pregnancy can cause an abnormal number of hair follicles
to shift into catagen (sleeping) phase. ...once the placenta
is delivered, with subsequent drop of high estrogen level,
more hair shifts into catagen phase over months following
the pregnancy." (3)
Medication: There are two types of hair
loss that occur due to medications: Anagen Effluvium and
Telogen Effluvium. (4,5)
Anagen Effluvium: Sudden and heavy hair
loss that usually results from chemotherapy drugs in the
antineoplastic agent class.
Telogen Effluvium: Telogen Effluvium,
in general, describes any hair loss where more hairs than
normal (50 to 100 a day) go into the telogen phase (resting
stage of the hair growth cycle. Nearly all forms of non-genetic,
temporary or transient hair loss are classied as (telogen
effluvium). As it applies to Medication, telogen effluvium
describes a type of hair loss that was slower, and is
a direct cause of non-cancer related medication such as:
birth control pills, blood thinners, some anti-depressants,
gout medicine and drugs for high blood pressure or heart
See our article: Drugs
that Cause Hair Loss
A. Emotional Stress: A highly emotional
and stressful event such as the loss of a parent, spouse
or child, job loss and financial stress, and even stress
over a physical accident or surgery, can cause excessive
hair loss. The strange thing about stress and hair loss
is that the stressful event usually precedes the hair loss
by 3 months. That means, by the time you notice your hair
falling out, the emotionally taxing event may already be
over with. "Furthermore, there may be another three
month delay prior to the return of noticeable hair regrowth."
Why the 3 month time lag to lost hair, and 3 months for
regrowth? It has to do with the Anagen, Catagen, and Telogen
phase of the hair growth cycle.
The important thing to remember about stress and hair loss
is not to self-diagnose yourself and try to pass off your
hair loss to yourself as "Stress Related." - It
may not be. It might be related to other important, health
"I have diagnosed nine women with systemic lupus,
who did not know they had lupus but presented to the office
because of thinning hair," Lynn Drake, MD reported
in article for Dermatology Times. (6).
And finally, emotional stress can lead to Trichotillomania,
a compulsive disorder more commonly seen in children and
women where stress leads one to twist and/or pull on hair
until it is damaged and breaks off, leading to uneven hair
See our Stress
and Hair Loss and Trichotillomania
articles for more information.
B. Physical Stress: Much like emotional
stress, physical stress on our body such as a major illness
or accident, may cause hair loss. The reason for this has
to be kept in perspective. Our hair serves no vital function
for our health, other than to keep our head warm. Hundreds
to 1,000s of years ago, this was useful. Today, not so much.
When your body is in trouble it, "...shuts down
production of hair during periods stress since it is not
necessary for survival." (4).
In other words, your body decides it has more imporant
matters to concentrate on healing than it does to make hair
grow. Hair growth for survival, has a low priority.
Illness: Besides the stress of an accident
or illness, some illnesses have hair loss as a characteristic
symptom. This includes: Thyroid
Disease (article), Lupus and high fever. Other diseases
such as anemia and anorexia, may cause nutrional shortages
which lead to hair loss.
Hair Diseases: Alopecia Areata is a type
of hair loss characterized by round patches of complete
baldness. Although it is unknown exactly how this disease
is caused, some evidence suggests that family history, and
possibly an auto immune disorder may have a role in forming
this disease. Children who are affected by Alopecia Areata
will usually regrow their hair back in appoximately 1 year.
Falling under this category of alopecia is Alopecia Totalis
and Alopecia Universalis. Totalis causes a complete loss
of hair on the scalp whereas Universalis causes a complete
loss of hair on the scalp and the entire body.
Although no completely effective treatment method exists,
the chances for a full recovery are excellent as the problem
seems to go away on it's own. To help reverse the disease,
doctors might treat patients with topical or injected steroids
to stimulate new hair growth. (7)
Tinea Capitis is a type of hair loss caused by a fungal
infection. It is more commonly seen in children but can
occur in teenage girls and boys. See Hair
Diseases for more information.
Traction Alopecia: Traction alopecia is
another cause of hair loss and is caused by damage to the
follicle and dermal papilla when hair is repeatedly fashioned
into a style that pulls, tears and breaks the hair off,
often permanently. Hair that is over processed by chemicals
may also damage hair and cause it to be lost permanently.
See our article Traction
Alopecia for more information.
- D.H.Rushton, R.Dover, M.J.Norris.
(2003) Is there really no clear association between
low serum ferritin and chronic diffuse telogen hair loss?.
British Journal of Dermatology 148:6,
Deficiency and Hair Loss, Healthwise, Retrieved
from SutterHealth.org, Jan 12, 1010
Hair Loss: It's Temporary But Can Be Worrisome,
International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons, 2005
Pattern Hair Loss, American Hair Loss Council,
published date unknown, Retrieved on Jan 12, 2010
Effluvium, Elizabeth CW Hughes, MD, eMedicine.medscape.com,
updated March 27, 2009, Retrieved on Jan 12, 2010.
Hair Loss: Don't Delay Search for Cause, Sharon
Worcester, Family Practice News, 2000. Retrieved Jan 12,
- Hair Loss Diseases
in Children and Adults, HairLossLibrary.com,