The menopause and hair loss investigated

The menopause is known to cause all kinds of unwanted symptoms such as hot flushes, joint pain and mood swings. However, one side effect many women are unprepared for is hair loss.

The menopause is often reflected in the health of our hair. It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, with an average of 51, and is a gradual decline in oestrogen levels.

As these hormonal changes occur, women will often notice that the volume and the condition of the hair worsens. Your hair may not grow as long or seem as thick and there may be increased hair shedding. However, it isn’t possible to lay the blame wholly on the menopause as it often a combination of factors that come into play, including the ageing process and genetics.

This combination of factors is why the hair loss and thinning experienced during the menopause can be more challenging to treat. The pattern and acceleration of hair thinning caused by the menopause has been compared to the beginning stages of male pattern baldness.

Understanding the hormonal link between menopause and hair loss

The lead trigger for hair thinning during the menopause is a decreased level of oestrogen, as this hormone plays an important role in the hair growth phase. Also referred to as oestrogen-deficiency alopecia, it can present itself during perimenopause or not long after the menopause has started. In some cases, hair loss doesn’t present until a year or so after menopause has commenced.

Male hormones do still play a role in menopausal hair loss. As oestrogen levels decrease, the male androgen hormone levels increase. Rather than decreasing the actual number of hairs your scalp produces, androgens cause a reduction in length and diameter. This in turn causes the hair to become thinner. The increased level of androgen is also the trigger behind facial hair growth frequently experienced throughout the menopause.

Non-hormonal triggers of hair loss

Whilst hormones do play a significant role in menopausal hair loss, they aren’t the only factor. Genetic predisposition and stress are two other common triggers that can affect the hair. The menopause generally increases stress levels, accelerating hair loss. Medications can also present a problem, as well as diet deficiencies.

Experts continue to explore the effects the menopause has on the body, including its association with hair loss. From September through to October, the World Congress on Menopause will be meeting in Prague to discuss the effects of the condition, including up-to-date information on its management and more controversial issues.

Overall, whilst hair loss is a common symptom of the menopause, it is unlikely you will go completely bald as female hair loss rarely follows the same pattern as male hair loss. Hair thinning is the most common complaint, though that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. A specialist in hair loss, such as a dermatologist, can rule out any other potential causes and provide you with advice and treatment options during this challenging time.

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