Hair Loss

Most men and women experience hair loss as they get older; indeed, most men have some degree of baldness by age 60. This is quite normal and affects some persons more than others, especially if baldness runs in the family. Sudden or abnormal hair loss could, however, result from:

  • Taking certain medications (like some used in treating cancer, circulatory disorders, ulcers or arthritis)
  • Following a crash diet
  • Hormonal changes such as with menopause
  • A prolonged or serious illness

Some medical conditions lead to hair loss. These need treatment. They include:

  • Hypothyroidism and ringworm (the latter is a fungal infection that affects the scalp and/or the hairs themselves)
  • Areata, which causes areas of patchy hair loss, but does not affect the scalp. This condition improves rapidly when treated, but can even disappear within 18 months without treatment. Doctors may prescribe a topical steroid to be used once or twice a day.

For cosmetic reasons, some older persons wear wigs or toupees. Surgical hair transplant operations and the medication Rogaine are treatment options for both men and women, in very select cases. {Note: Wear a hat or use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more on the bald parts of your head when your head is exposed to the sun. The risk of sunburn and skin cancer on the scalp increases with baldness.}

Questions to Ask

Do you experience one or more of the following?

  • Unexplained fatigue and weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Numbness and tingling of hands and feet
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Coarse skin and hair
  • Deepened or hoarse voice
  • Depression
  • Decreased sex drive

Yes: See Doctor


Has the hair loss occurred suddenly and in patches on the head? Is the scalp affected in any way, such as with red or gray-green scales?
Yes: See Doctor

Are there signs of infection (e.g., redness, tenderness, swelling and/or pain) at the site of hair loss?
Yes: See Doctor

Does the hair loss occur from uncontrollably pulling out patches of hair?
Yes: Call Doctor

Have you begun losing your hair only after taking prescribed medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ulcers or arthritis?
Yes: Call Doctor

Do you want to find out about hair implants or the medication Rogaine?
Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

Self-Care Tips

To protect your hair from damage and loss:

  • Avoid damaging hair care practices or use them infrequently. These include braiding, cornrowing, bleaching, dyeing, perming, straightening; hot curling irons and rollers, and hair dryers, especially on a high setting.
  • Use gentle shampoos and conditioners.
  • Let your hair dry by patting it with a towel or by air drying.
  • If your hair is damaged, cut it short or change your hairstyle to one that requires less damaging hair care practices.
  • Take measures (e.g., yoga and other relaxation techniques) to reduce anxiety if this results in pulling out patches of hair.
  • Don’t be taken in by fraudulent claims for vitamin formulas, massage oils, lotions or ointments that promise to cure baldness. No potion or ointment exists that will produce a full head of hair. The only remedy that comes close is the medication Rogaine, originally developed as a blood pressure medication. Rogaine has shown promising results for some (but not all) cases of baldness. This applies to both men and women. It is available over-the-counter.
  • Ask your doctor for a substitute medication if you are taking one that has caused hair loss. (This is not done, though, for certain medications such as anticancer drugs.)
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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021