Hair loss

Excessive hair loss from your scalp or body, also known as baldness and alopecia.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2023

What is hair loss?

Hair loss can affect men and women, although the most common type of hair loss is male pattern baldness, a hereditary condition that happens as you age.

There are many different reasons for hair loss. In some cases, there’s no known cause, but reasons for hair loss include:

Hair loss can happen suddenly or gradually and might only affect a tiny patch on your scalp – or you might lose all your body hair. Depending on the reason for your hair loss, it may be temporary and will grow back naturally. However, sometimes, especially with male pattern baldness, hair loss is permanent.

Hair loss treatment is available but hair regrowth often depends on the reason for your hair loss.

How to tell if you have hair loss

The most common symptoms of hair loss is gradual thinning on the top of your scalp. This is male pattern baldness. It can also affect women, when it’s referred to as female pattern baldness.

You may have a type of alopecia, which are autoimmune conditions – where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. Forms of alopecia include:

  • Alopecia areata – a relatively common disease where you have circular or patchy bald spots on your scalp or body
  • Alopecia totalis – total hair loss from the scalp
  • Alopecia universalis – complete loss of hair from scalp and body

Other reasons for baldness include:

  • Traction alopecia – bald patches where your hair has been tied too tightly
  • Trichotillomania – bald patches due to your hair being habitually tugged, twisted or pulled

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Book an appointment

Diagnosis and tests for hair loss

If you’re concerned about bald patches or have noticed excessive or sudden hair loss, see your GP. They should be able to diagnose the reason for your hair loss and will discuss treatment options with you.

Your GP will also check if your hair loss is the result of an underlying condition, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Lupus
  • Iron deficiency (anaemia)

Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist (a consultant who specialises in skin conditions) for further assessment and treatment.

Causes of hair loss

Male and female pattern baldness are both part of the natural aging process.

Alopecia areata, totalis and universalis are auto-immune conditions. It’s thought that genetics may contribute to your chance of developing it.

Certain cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, can make your hair fall out. Hair loss can also be a side effect of other drug treatments, including anti-depressants, and some health conditions. In most cases, your hair will grow back once your treatment is complete.

Pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause can also be reasons for hair loss, although this is usually temporary.

Common treatments for hair loss

Hair loss treatment includes:

  • Medications such as finasteride and minoxidil to encourage hair regrowth
  • Steroid injections, creams and gels to reduce your immune system’s attack on your hair follicles
  • Immunotherapy - stimulating hair regrowth by triggering an allergic reaction
  • Shining ultra-violet light onto bald patches
  • Hair transplant – implanting hair follicles, hair cells or artificial hairs into the scalp
  • Scalp reduction surgery – covering bald patches with sections of scalp where hair is still growing

If hair loss is affecting you emotionally, your GP or consultant may refer you for counselling. You might also find it helps to join a hair loss or alopecia support group.