Hair loss

Losing your hair isn't usually a sign of illness but it can be upsetting. Treatment may help with some types of hair loss.

Causes of hair loss

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

When to see a GP

You should see your 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

Your GP may be able to tell you what's causing your hair loss.

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

See your GP first to get a clear and accurate idea of what's causing your hair loss before thinking about going to a commercial hair clinic, which can be costly.

Treatment for hair loss

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. Most treatments are not available on the health service so you will have to pay for them.

No treatment is 100 per cent effective.

Medication

There is medication that can be used to help treat baldness in men and women.

These treatments:

  • don't work for everyone
  • only work for as long as they're used
  • are not available on the health service
  • can be expensive

Wigs

Wigs can be made available by the health service in Northern Ireland, in certain circumstances, such as for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. Speak to your GP or Hospital Consultant if you would like to know more about this option.

Other hair loss treatments

There are other hair loss treatments available. Some are available through referral to a Hospital Doctor. Some are not available on the Health Service and have to be paid for privately.

Treatments include:

  • 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 affecting your mental wellbeing, your GP may be able to help you get some counselling.

You may also benefit from joining a support group, or speaking to other people in the same situation on online forums, see useful links below.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

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