Hair Loss & PCOS

Help! I'm Losing My Hair

Approximately 15% of American women suffer from alopecia, or baldness.  As the hair loss develops, it is at first noticable in only one or two spots, and eventually spreads to all over the head.  Baldness happens when hair falls out and is not replaced with new growth.   It is not well understood what causes the failure of new hair growth, but in the cases of women with PCOS, the probable primary contributor is excessively high levels of male hormones. 

It is normal to lose about 100 hairs from your head every day, not a big loss when you consider that the average scalp has about 100,000 hairs on it.  The average rate of hair growth, from a follicle on the scalp is about ½ inch per month. 

Normally, each strand grows for two to six years, stops or rests, and then falls out.  Shortly thereafter, a new hair begins to grow in its place.  About 85% or hair is growing and about 15% is resting at any one time. 

A male hormone, DHT, which is converted from testosterone, appears to bind with hair follicles and in turn causes hair to go into the resting phase much sooner than it normally would.  As a result, hairs produced by those particular follicles end up being thinner with each new growth cycle.

The Affects of Hair Loss In Women

Another associated problem for women with PCOS is thyroid dysfunction - usually low thyroid function.  Hypothyroidism is a contributor to weight problems and can also add to thinning hair.  Some women with PCOS have very high levels of male hormones, like testosterone, and an underactive thyroid.  Multiple factors are not uncommon in women with PCOS.

Hair loss can be a very devastating and highly volatile situation for a woman.  Its emotional impact potentially gives rise to the feelings of vulnerability, nakedness and ultimately to the loss of self-esteem and self-confidence.  Often women with PCOS who suffer with androgenic alopecia (hair loss)  have this emotional challenge added to the already long list of challenges in dealing with PCOS. 

There are several methods for dealing with hair loss in women with PCOS.  The only approved medication by the FDA to treat baldness in women is minoxidil, which is a topical medication used on the scalp.  This product has been shown to slow or even stop the loss of hair. 

A natural method for treating the condition is saw palmetto, which has also been found to be effective in men.  Hair transplants are yet another way to recover lost hair.  There are risks involved with this procedure and it usually requires several transplant sessions to complete the job, but the results are often very good.

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