The Truth about Stress and Hair Loss
Many Americans are stressed due to the tough economic climate, and recently some of my patients have attributed their thinning hair to stress. While I always listen to my patients’ concerns, I typically tell them that stress is not the cause of their hair loss and explain what can be done to diagnose and properly treat the problem. The truth is that stress really does not cause hair loss except in very few cases. Unfortunately, many physicians perpetuate this misinformation to their patients as well. I explain that the most common reason for hair loss is by far genetics.
Nearly all cases of hair loss in men and women are caused by androgenetic alopecia, otherwise know as male or female pattern baldness. This genetic and progressive condition will continue to get worse if left untreated.
Stress, however, can be one of the many causes of temporary hair loss, called telogen effluvium (TE). TE normally occurs after a period of excessive physical or emotional stress, like that associated with injury, childbirth, illness, general anesthesia, or surgery trauma. Though this is a temporary condition, it may take as long as six to twelve months to reverse.
A less common type of hair loss sometimes triggered by stress is the auto-immune condition known as alopecia areata, which occurs when the white blood cells “overwhelm” hair follicles, causing hair to rapidly shed in patches. In most cases the hair will grow back on its own, but often treatment is necessary as the shedding cycle might repeat itself. In some cases, the hair will not grow back.
My best advice is to try to eliminate stress from your life. Sure, Doc, easier said than done! While it may not stop the progression of male or female baldness, the health benefits of a low stress life are priceless!