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Hair loss

Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss. There are many types of hair loss with different causes. Read about what causes hair loss and the treatment options available.

Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss. There are many types of hair loss with different causes.

Losing your hair isn't usually anything to be worried about but it can be upsetting. Treatment may help with some types of hair loss.

Causes

It's normal to lose hair. We can lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, often without noticing.

Hair loss isn't usually anything to be worried about but occasionally it can be a sign of a medical condition.

Some types of hair loss are permanent, like male and female pattern baldness. This type of hair loss usually runs in the family.

Other types of hair loss may be temporary. They can be caused by:

  • an illness
  • stress
  • cancer treatment
  • weight loss
  • iron deficiency

Talk to your GP first to get a clear and accurate idea of what's causing your hair loss. You should do this before thinking about going to a commercial hair clinic as these can be be costly.

Treatment

See a GP if:

  • you have sudden hair loss
  • you develop bald patches
  • you're losing hair in clumps
  • your head also itches and burns
  • you're worried about your hair loss

What happens at your appointment

Your GP should be able to tell you what's causing your hair loss by looking at your hair.

Tell your GP if your hair loss is affecting your wellbeing and ask what treatments are available.

Most hair loss doesn't need treatment and is either:

  • temporary and it will grow back
  • a normal part of getting older

Hair loss caused by a medical condition usually stops or grows back once you've recovered.

There are things you can try if your hair loss is causing you distress.

No treatment is 100% effective.

Finasteride and minoxidil

Finasteride and minoxidil are the main treatments for male pattern baldness.

Minoxidil can also be used to treat female pattern baldness. Women should not use finasteride.

These treatments:

  • don't work for everyone
  • only work for as long as they're used
  • can be expensive

Wigs

Synthetic wigs:

  • last 6 to 9 months
  • are easier to look after than real-hair wigs
  • can be itchy and hot
  • cost less than real-hair wigs

Real-hair wigs:

  • last 3 to 4 years
  • are harder to look after than synthetic wigs
  • look more natural than synthetic wigs
  • cost more than synthetic wigs

Other hair loss treatments

  • Steroid injection - injections given into bald patches
  • Steroid creams - cream applied to bald patches
  • Immunotherapy - chemical applied to bald patches
  • Light treatment - shining ultraviolet light on bald patches
  • Tattooing - tattoo used to look like short hair and eyebrows
  • Hair transplant - hair cells are moved to thinning patches
  • Scalp reduction surgery - sections of scalp with hair are stretched and stitched together
  • Artificial hair transplant - surgery to implant artificial hairs

Emotional help

Losing hair can be upsetting. For many people, hair is an important part of who they are.

If your hair loss is causing you distress, your GP may be able to help you get some counselling.

You may also benefit from joining a support group. You might also like to speak to other people in the same situation on online forums.

You can access online support groups through Alopecia Ireland.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 29/01/2019
Next review due: 29/01/2022