A little shedding is normal. But if you notice any of these other symptoms along with the thinning on your head, something else might be going on.
Brittany Risher,Jul 14, 2020 • 3 min read
All of us lose hair every day—at a rate of about 50 to 100 strands daily, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. For some people who lose more hair than this, it's simply genetics. About 50 million men and 30 million women in America experience androgenetic alopecia. That means their hair follicles shrink and eventually stop growing hair.
But excessive shedding can also be a symptom of more serious underlying issues. Here are five red flags that your hair loss may point to a bigger issue. If you notice any of these, talk to your doctor.
1. You're losing hair not only from your head
“Loss of facial or body hair in addition to scalp hair may indicate your hair loss may be due to an inflammatory or autoimmune condition,” explains dermatologist Susan Bard, MD. So if your eyebrows are thinning, you notice eyelashes falling out, or your arms are losing hair, something more could be going on.
In the case of the autoimmune disease alopecia areata, your immune system attacks the hair follicles anywhere on the body, leading to hair loss. Lupus and thyroid disorders can also lead to hair loss not only from your head but also on the face and body.
2. You're feeling more fatigued than normal
Everyday life can certainly make you feel run down. But if you feel fatigued more days than not and are losing hair, it could be a sign of anemia. With iron-deficiency anemia, you either aren't eating enough iron, your body can't absorb iron well, or your body is losing too much iron (often due to heavy menstrual cycles). This can lead to symptoms such as extreme fatigue, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, and chest pain. A blood test can determine if you have anemia.
3. You have diarrhea
A lack of adequate zinc can also lead to hair loss, as well as diarrhea and loss of appetite. However, it's unclear if zinc supplements help reverse hair loss, and too much zinc can have adverse side effects, so never supplement without consulting a healthcare provider first.
4. You're losing hair on your head but gaining it in other places
Excessive hair growth on your face and body, irregular or absent periods, acne, and hair loss are all symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), explains dermatologist Doris Day, MD, of Day Dermatology and Aesthetics in New York City. About 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age have PCOS. These women are thought to have high levels of androgens, which are sometimes considered “male” hormones, even though women also produce small amounts of androgens. A doctor may do blood work or a pelvic exam to diagnose PCOS.
5. You've unexpectedly gained or lost weight
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are associated with hair loss, Bard says. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can also lead to weight loss, irritability, rapid heartbeat, and fatigue, while an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can also lead to weight gain, decreased sweating, trouble tolerating cold, and heavy or irregular periods.
The bottom line: If you do suspect you’re dealing with hair loss, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for early intervention. If you prefer to consult a doctor from home, Blink offers online doctor consults for just $5.