Experts say the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions. Here, eight red flags that tell you it’s time to pay more attention to the health of your hair –and your overall health.
Red flag #1: Dry, limp, thin-feeling hair
What it means: Many factors can lead to over-dry hair, including hair dyes, hair blowers, and swimming in chlorinated water. But a significant change in texture that leaves hair feeling finer, with less body, can be an indicator of an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism. Other signs of hypothyroidism: fatigue, weight gain, slow heart rate, and feeling cold all the time. A telltale sign: when the outermost third of the eyebrow thins or disappears.
Red flag #2: Scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, often starting at the hairline
What it means: When a thick crust forms on the scalp, this usually indicates psoriasis, which can be distinguished from other dandruff-like skin conditions by the presence of a thickening, scab-like surface, says Lawrence Greene, MD, a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation. It often occurs in concert with other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis, which causes painful swelling of the joints.
Red flag #3: Thinning hair over the whole head
What it means: When you notice considerably more hairs in your brush after you shampoo — or when hair appears to be coming out in clumps – it’s time for concern. One common cause: a sudden psychological or physical stressor, such as a divorce or job loss. Another: having a high fever from the flu or an infection. Diabetes and a number of medications also cause hair loss as a side effect. For more information and a list of which meds cause hair loss and what to do about it see link below.
Red flag #4: Overall hair loss that appears permanent, often following traditional pattern baldness
What it means: Both women and men are subject to what’s formally known as androgenetic and androgenic alopecia. It’s usually caused by a change in the pattern of the sex hormones, but diseases and other underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by affecting the hormones. In women, a derivative of testosterone is often the culprit, shrinking and eventually killing off hair follicles. Traditionally known as “male pattern baldness,” this type of hair loss is often hereditary and is typically permanent if not treated with medication, says Larry Shapiro, a dermatologist and hair surgeon in Palm Beach, Florida. Diabetes also can cause or contribute to hair loss. Over time, diabetes often leads to circulatory problems; as a result, the hair follicles don’t get adequate nutrients and can’t produce new hairs. Hair follicles can eventually die from lack of nutrition, causing permanent hair loss.
Red flag #5: Dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily
What it means: When individual hairs litter your pillow in the morning, this typically indicates breakage rather than hair falling out from the follicle, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Breakage is most frequently the result of hair becoming over-brittle from chemical processing or dyeing. “Bleaching, straightening, and other chemical processing techniques strip the cuticle to let the chemicals in, which makes the hair shaft more fragile,” Barbosa explains. However, certain health conditions also lead to brittle, fragile hair. Click on the link below to find out which ones.
Red Flag #6: Hair falling out in small, circular patches
What it means: The body’s immune response turns on the hair follicles themselves, shrinking them and causing hair to fall out entirely in small, typically round patches. This kind of hair loss — which experts call alopecia areata — can also occur at the temples or at the part line. Diabetes can trigger the onset of such hair loss in some people. And it can continue to spread; in extreme cases, sufferers lose all their hair or lose hair over their entire body. Alopecia areata can also cause the eyebrows or eyelashes to fall out, which in addition to the circular pattern can distinguish it from other types of hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition and has been shown to be more common in families with a tendency toward other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, early-onset diabetes, and thyroid disease.
Red flag #7: Yellowish flakes on the hair and scaly, itchy patches on the scalp
What it means: What most of us grew up calling dandruff is now understood to be a complicated interaction of health issues that deserve to be taken seriously. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the scalp that causes skin to develop scaly patches, often in the areas where the scalp is oiliest. When the flaky skin loosens, it leaves the telltale “dandruff” flakes.
Red flag #8: Gray hair
What it means: While they can’t yet prove or explain it, many researchers now believe that stress may trigger a chain reaction that interferes with how well the hair follicle transmits melanin, the pigment that colors hair. Researchers are looking at the role of free radicals, which are hormones we produce when under stress, and studies seem to show that they can block the signal that tells the hair follicle to absorb the melanin pigment. Other experts argue that a trauma or stressful event causes the hair to stop growing temporarily and go into a resting phase. Then when the hair follicles “wake up” and begin turning over again, a lot of new hair grows in all at once, making it appear that a great deal of gray has come in all at the same time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION and WHAT TO DO if you have any of the above, be sure to read the entire article here: http://www.caring.com/articles/eight-things-hair-says-about-health
This content was originally published by Caring.com: “8Things Your Hair Says About Your Health” and this excerpt reprinted here with permission.
- Is Thyroid Disease Causing Your Hair Loss? (everydayhealth.com)
- When Hypothyroidism is Caused by Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (everydayhealth.com)
- Getting Hypothyroidism Under Control (everydayhealth.com)
- The 411 on Thinning Hair (bellasugar.com)
- Symptoms of hypothyroidism (mnn.com)
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- Things You Should Know About Losing Your Hair (foodstaycation.com)
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- Is a Hair Loss Product the Answer for You? (everydayhealth.com)