We all have to deal with bad hair days every now and then. But when they seem to be coming more frequently and refuse to go away, the problem may be more than just cosmetic. Our hair is also a reflection of our health. While most hair problems are nothing more than a cry for better TLC, some of them may actually be signs or symptoms of an underlying medical condition. Consider them a warning — a call to look beneath the surface and deal with any health concern as early as possible.
Check out what these common hair conditions may be saying about your health.
1. Thinning hair
The American Academy of Dermatology says we normally lose about 50 to 100 strands a day, and around 250 strands when we wash our hair. But if you notice that you’re losing hair more rapidly than normal — if they’re coming out in clumps, for example — you might have to dig deeper to find the cause.
Excessive hair loss may be the result of the following:
- Thyroid condition – The thyroid is an endocrine gland that regulates a number of bodily functions, such as metabolism, heart rate, cholesterol level, menstruation and core body temperature. When you have a problem with your thyroid, you will likely experience several symptoms, including hair loss, unexplained weight gain, lethargy, depression, eye problems and more. If you notice these symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor about them. Alternatively, you can choose one of the private healthcare providers such as Medichecks to get yourself tested for any thyroid abnormalities.
- Iron deficiency or anaemia – Hair follicles need iron to grow, so lack of iron in the body can lead to hair loss. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include lethargy and shortness of breath. Make sure you get plenty of iron in your diet through foods like red meat, vegetables, dried fruit, and beans. You may also consult your doctor about taking iron supplements.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome – This is a common endocrine system disorder that leads to symptoms like hair loss, excessive facial hair, acne, and weight gain. Your doctor may come up with a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all symptoms. But if hair loss is the sole or predominant effect of the condition, you may be prescribed topical or oral anti-androgen solutions.
- Menopause – This causes your body to produce less estrogen and progesterone – two hormones essential to hair production. This is why thinning hair is common among women who have reached menopausal age. The condition can be enhanced by stress that comes from dealing with the hormonal changes in your body. Your doctor may prescribe supplements or other treatments to help your body cope with these hormonal changes.
- Alopecia areata – This condition refers to partial hair loss in random parts of the scalp. It is often caused by stress, but may also be the effect of certain illnesses like hay fever, diabetes, and thyroid conditions. It typically resolves itself within one year, but certain treatments like topical corticosteroids and PRP injection can help hasten hair restoration.
Dandruff is unsightly and embarrassing, but the good news is, it is generally harmless. Dandruff forms from an overgrowth of yeast on an oily scalp, so the best anti-dandruff solutions are those that remove excess oil from the scalp. Vitamin B6 can also help in controlling dandruff.
While dandruff is generally not a cause for medical alarm, it’s a different story when thick white crusts form on your scalp, accompanied by itchy, reddish patches. This could indicate psoriasis, a common autoimmune disease that occurs when skin cells shed and grow at an abnormally fast rate.
Psoriasis is also related to other diseases, including Crohn’s disease, metabolic syndrome and arthritis, so it has to be properly managed not only with topical and oral treatments for the scalp but also with the right diet, exercise and, perhaps, other medications.
3. Grey hair
The most obvious explanation for grey hair is, of course, advancing age — and the best thing we can do about that is to find the most time and energy-efficient hair colouring routine.
If you’re too young for wizened hair, though, or if the silvery strands seem to be multiplying faster than before, it could mean you’re under a lot of stress. Just look at how presidential hair can dramatically turn silver after a few years in office. It may not happen to everyone, but some people are genetically prone to getting grey hair faster than others. Find ways to relax and avoid chronic stress. In many cases, those who experienced greying hair due to stress found that their hair went back to normal after things have settled down.
4. Dry hair
Your hair can dry out if it’s overexposed to extreme temperatures, styling tools, or other causes. But it can also indicate hormonal changes, particularly during menopause or pregnancy, or due to hypothyroidism. Other symptoms of a thyroid problem include weight gain, fatigue, muscle pain, and puffiness.
Dry hair that’s also brittle or thinning could mean you lack certain nutrients from eating too much junk or processed food. Switch to whole foods and have plenty of fruits in your diet.
Another possible cause of dry, thinning hair is dehydration. When you’re not getting enough water, your hair becomes dehydrated too. Other symptoms of dehydration include hot flashes at night and sluggishness.
5. Slow growth
If you had that haircut a couple of months ago and your hair has pretty much stayed the same length, you might be needing more protein. Hair is mostly composed of protein, so if you’re not getting enough of this nutrient, your hair may not grow as fast as it should. Eat more protein-rich food, such as fatty fish, red meat and eggs.
Remember, a bad hair day may mean just that. But if you seem to be getting more and more of them, then it’s probably time to listen to what your hair may be telling you. Watch out for other signs and symptoms, and don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you suspect that something more serious is involved.
Additionally, avoid over-styling. Exposing your hair to extremely hot temperatures and a multitude of treatments can damage its texture and appearance – and this can make it difficult for your hair to “talk” to you.
M is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.