All over the world, millions of people of all genders suffer from different forms of hair loss for one reason or another. In some instances, people are simply more genetically prone to losing their hair; however, hair loss isn’t always a genetic byproduct. Sometimes, it could indicate that a deeper and more pressing medical issue, illness, or condition is at play. Here are just nine of the diseases that are known to either directly or indirectly cause hair loss.
9 Diseases and Medical Conditions that Can Cause Hair Loss
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
ASD is a temporary psychological disorder that’s akin to and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if it’s not properly treated in a timely manner. The onset of ASD occurs primarily when a patient experiences an incredibly traumatic event such as the sudden death of a loved one, a threat to their life, or a serious near-death accident or experience. The emotional and physical turmoil caused by these types of events can be incredibly difficult—almost impossible—for a lot of people to overcome. As a coping mechanism, some people could develop trichotillomania, which is the compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair. However, the body also reacts internally by causing most hair follicles to prematurely enter their resting stage so that no new hairs can grow for an indeterminate period of time as old hairs continue to fall out at a swift pace.
Lichen planus is a serious skin condition with many variations, the cause of which is generally unknown. Symptoms include: red bumps, scarring, and inflammation typically around the wrists and ankles. Lichen planopilaris is the variation of lichen planus that’s situated on or around the scalp, and it’s directly linked to permanent hair loss from overactive inflammation that suffocates the hair follicles. Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish this disease from lupus erythematosus because inflammation doesn’t always occur and, aside from that, the symptoms are almost identical.
Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that attack both healthy native and destructive foreign cells in the body, including hair follicles. Lupus disproportionately plagues women of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent more than people of any other ethnic background. There is no known cause nor is there a cure, but if detected early, it’s highly manageable and treatable.
There are two types of thyroid problems that can lead to hair loss: hyper-thyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypo-thyroidism (underactive thyroid). The thyroid regulates hormone levels throughout the body. On average, people naturally lose about 100 strands of hair per day which means that an overactive or underactive thyroid can only exacerbate and speed up the rate of hair loss. A common form of hypo-thyroidism is called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disorder that severely inflames the thyroid gland and prevents it from functioning normally.
Testosterone is an important hormone that largely exists in men and only minimally in women. The main purpose of testosterone is to promote healthy bone development, proportionately distribute fat throughout the body, produce sperm, and increase the libido. Low testosterone is a condition that causes the body to produce insufficient levels of testosterone so that it’s unable to perform these functions to its full capacity. As people age, their bodies tend to produce less and less testosterone (about one percent less every year). Some people’s testosterone levels deplete much more rapidly than normal, and this can lead to hair loss as they age.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can affect sexually active people of any age. It develops from a form of bacteria called Treponema pallidum and is only spread through direct contact with an infected area—typically small sore called a chancre—or infected bodily fluids. Sores can appear either inside a person’s mouth, on their rectum, or on their genitals. Syphilis has four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Each stage entails its own unique set of symptoms, although in most cases, symptoms might not appear for a very long time. Hair loss and patchiness typically occurs during the secondary stage. However, with early detection and proper treatment, syphilis is highly treatable and eventually your hair will grow back.
There are three forms of the tropical disease known as Leishmaniasis that are each caused by various strains of the Leishmania parasite: cutaneous leishmaniasis, visceral leishmaniasis, and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. The Leishmania parasite is found in infected sand flies in various African countries and the only way to contract the disease is if you’re bitten by one. One of the many symptoms of visceral leishmaniasis—the most fatal form of the disease—is either patchy or thinning hair or even total hair loss. This includes all forms of body hair, not just the scalp.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
HIV is a strong virus that progressively attacks and weakens the immune system into submission. If left untreated, it can eventually develop into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV doesn’t directly cause hair loss, but one of the symptoms is telogen effluvium—a condition that prematurely halts the growth of new hair strands by sending hair follicles into an indefinite resting stage. Existing hair strands continue to fall out as they normally would, but new hairs aren’t being produced fast enough (or at all) to replace them.
Hair loss is one of many symptoms associated with Crohn’s Disease. The illness inflames the bowels, thus blocking the gastrointestinal system from properly being able to digest food and absorb vital nutrients and vitamins that the body needs to function normally. Hence, hair follicles are severely deprived of essential vitamins and nutrients that are instrumental to healthy hair regeneration and they enter into a resting stage. When the disease is taken under control and in remission, though, normal hair growth can commence.
The Canadian Institute of Hair and Scalp Specialists has over 30 years of extensive experience in helping patients achieve their hair loss goals through various treatments based on different health conditions. We’re one of the top hair rejuvenation clinics in Canada and we take great pride in helping our clients regain their confidence. For a complimentary consultation, please call us at (905) 272-0190 or toll-free at 1-800-563-3836.