Other Causes for Hair Loss (Alopecia)

During hormonal changes after childbirth, when the hormones revert to normal levels, all of the hair that has not been cycling suddenly enters the resting, telogen phase. For several months following childbirth, women may notice that more hair than usual falls out when they comb or brush.

Women who are susceptible to androgenetic alopecia and take birth control pills may experience hair loss. Switching birth control pills sometimes helps. Women who stop using oral contraceptives may notice their hair thinning 2 or 3 months later. The hair starts to grow normally after about 6 months.

Illness can cause hair loss. Often, for the first couple of months after serious illness, the hair enters a resting phase and starts to shed. Hair loss also may follow major surgery. Patients with a chronic illness may lose hair continually. Hypothyroidism can lead to diffuse hair loss on the scalp and dry, brittle hair. Syphilis can sometimes cause spotty hair loss.

Ringworm (tinea capitas), a contagious childhood disease, can lead to the development of inflammatory, boggy masses full of broken hairs and ooze (called kerions). Kerions usually heal but can leave permanent bald patches.

Seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema, is often associated with diffuse hair thinning and greasy, yellow scales on the scalp. Treatment usually involves tar shampoo and topical steroids.

Trichotillomania, compulsive hair pulling, can eventually lead to alopecia. As many as 6 to 8 million people in the United States suffer from this condition.

If a person does not eat enough protein, the body tries to make up for the deficiency by stimulating an abnormally large number of hairs to enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. A couple months later, those hairs shed.

Iron deficiency also can produce hair loss. For example, a woman who bleeds heavily during her periods may develop iron deficiency and associated hair loss.

Hair Loss Patient Resources

Some of the information in this document was adapted from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, an organization that provides information on alopecia areata, funding for scientific research, and emotional support for patients and their families.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Feb 2001

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015