Hair has played a crucial role in the lives of people for centuries. In the past, it was used to distinguish peoples’ roles in society and could serve as an indicator of wealth and status. For example, elaborate hairstyles were typically associated with high class and wealth. Today our hair is an extension of our personality and in some cases, our professional life. While hair still does have a lot of social implications, it can also be used to convey some aspects of our health.
Thin hair can be attributed to genetics, hormone imbalances, or a diet lacking in certain nutrients; however, it can also be an indicator of a thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormones. The condition can be caused by a variety of factors. Exposure to radiation, familial factors, and taking supplements that impact the thyroid are just a few of the risk factors that can potentially lead to hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism aside from thin hair in adults are fatigue, depression, weight gain, heavy menstrual periods in women, constipation, and muscle weakness. Infants can also have hypothyroidism, some symptoms to look out for in infants is jaundice, choking frequently, and having a puffy face. Treatments for hypothyroidism include medication and in some cases, even, surgery.
Hair shedding is different from hair loss in that typically shedding can stop on its own. Another key difference is actually the cause of hair loss or hair shedding. For example, hair shedding can be caused by a variety of factors, like stress, giving birth, illness, and when recovering from an illness. Shedding can also be an indication of anemia. Anemia is the result of having too little iron in the body. Iron is a critical component in the creation of red blood cells. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your body. Your hair follicles also need nutrients to produce healthy hair. Poor circulation and being anemic can result in your hair follicles not getting the nutrients they need to produce healthy hair.
Hair loss can be caused by many things like certain drugs and medical treatments, hereditary factors, harsh hair care products, immune system responses, trichotillomania, or in some cases, a lack of protein. Hair is made up of a particular protein called keratin. People who suffer from gastrointestinal complications or those who recently had gastric bypass surgery may have problems digesting proteins. Hair loss resulting from proteins deficiencies are rare, and most hair loss is due to genetics or traction alopecia.
Stress and Aging
As mentioned before, stress can cause one’s hair to turn prematurely gray (excessive tress can also cause one’s hair to fall out). Of course, the graying of hair is also something that comes with age. Genetics plays a role in how early or late our hair may start turning gray. These genetics are often inherited by our parents, so knowing at what age your parents’ hair started turning gray can be a pretty good indicator for when your hair may turn grey. To learn more about how hair changes with age, check out our previous blog: How Does our Hair Change as we Age?
Brittle hair can be an indicator of dry, unhealthy hair, or vitamin deficiencies; however, in rare cases, it can indicate an even more severe health problem. Cushing’s syndrome is a hormone disorder that results from an excess amount of a stress hormone known as cortisol. Aside from brittle hair Cushing’s syndrome also has a few other side effects, such as back pain, increased blood pressure, severe fatigue, easy bruising, thin arms and legs, and obesity in the upper body. Treatments for Cushing’s syndrome depend on the cause of the syndrome. If you are taking synthetic hormones or certain medications, a reduction of dosage may fix the issue. If the increased levels of cortisol are due to a tumor, surgery or other forms of therapy may be necessary.
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