Diffuse Thinning: Signs, Causes, Treatment Options 2023
Whether it affects a small part or your entire scalp, diffuse hair thinning can be a very stressful and emotional thing to experience.
This condition is when hair sheds to such a degree that it becomes “see-through,” gradually exposing parts of your scalp.
Not only can this harm your self-confidence, but many fear it’s an early warning sign of more extreme hair loss to come.
Firstly, to put your mind at rest, it’s important to remember that diffuse hair loss is a widespread condition that affects men and women of any age.
You are not alone. And while there are many potential causes of the illness, there are equally as many effective treatments.
But where do you start? Well, we’re here to help.
This article will explore everything you need to know about diffuse hair loss. We’ll highlight the most common causes of the condition and how you can get a formal diagnosis.
We’ll also explore a range of treatments known to help treat and potentially reverse thinning hair.
What is diffuse thinning?
Diffuse hair thinning male hair loss is defined by excessive hair shedding. Strands become noticeably thin-looking; over time, hair becomes “see-through,” and your scalp is easily visible.
This condition is also known as ‘diffuse unpatterned alopecia; as that name suggests, the condition does not follow an exact pattern.
It can be unpredictable, affecting only part of your hair in some cases, while in others, the entire scalp. Additionally, it can affect both men and women, irrespective of their age.
Common causes of diffuse thinning include stress, medication, and hormone imbalances. Genetic conditions like male and female pattern hair loss can trigger it.
Thankfully, various treatments are available that can help address and correct the problem, including simple lifestyle changes, medications, and in extreme cases, surgical procedures.
What causes diffuse thinning?
Diffuse thinning can occur at any age and may result from various factors, including an underlying health condition, medication, lifestyle choices, or stress.
Below, we’ll explore nine potential causes in detail:
1. Hormonal imbalances
Hormones are vital in regulating several bodily functions, including hair growth. Unsurprisingly, when hormone levels are imbalanced, your hair can suffer in various ways, including thinning.
These imbalances can be brought about in various ways, including on their own or as part of another medical condition or disorder.
Certain life events, like childbirth or menopause, can also significantly change hormone levels in the body, causing excess shedding.
2. Medications and medical treatments
Certain medications and medical treatments can aggravate or stunt the growth of hair. This is especially true if treatment revolves around hormones, such as antidepressants or regulating blood pressure.
Furthermore, treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also cause dramatic hair loss, as healthy cells in the body, including hair follicles, are affected.
Similarly, autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to noticeable hair loss.
Discuss any concerns about side effects with your doctor, who may be able to recommend ways to alleviate their severity.
3. Alopecia Areata
Diffuse alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that sees your immune system attack hair follicles. It can lead to hair loss and bald spots across your scalp and other body parts.
In severe cases, diffuse alopecia areata may lead to hair thinning across the entire body and complete baldness. That said, more often than not, the condition will resolve itself without needing treatment.
4. Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition that usually follows severe stress or a significant change in the body, e.g., surgery, illness, or dramatic weight loss.
More hair enters the resting phase of the hair growth cycle, leading to a thinning appearance across your scalp.
It can take up to two to four months after the change for telogen effluvium to trigger, and its effects can last several months. That said, hair loss is often only temporary and will begin to recover in time.
5. Thyroid disease
Your thyroid is an essential gland located near your windpipe. It produces hormones that regulate everything from your heart and muscles to digestion and brain development.
An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can contribute to hair loss. Hair will become thin, brittle, dehydrated, and fall out much earlier than expected.
Thankfully, you can help restore your hair by taking medication to correct and rebalance your hormone levels.
6. Anagen effluvium
Anagen effluvium is when hair falls out during the active growing phase (anagen) of its hair growth cycle. Extreme trauma and high-toxicity medications and treatments like chemotherapy usually trigger this condition.
Hair becomes incredibly weak and vulnerable and will break and shed much earlier than expected.
This condition is reversible, and hair will return to its normal cycle once the underlying condition has been addressed and the contributing treatment has finished.
7. Iron deficiency
Iron helps your body produce red blood and regulate a variety of hormones. As such, it is a building block for a healthy body and healthy hair.
If you are deficient in iron, you may experience various health problems, including diffuse thinning. Your hair may also change in texture and appearance, becoming brittle to the touch and losing color.
Thankfully, you can correct this condition by increasing iron in your diet. Try to eat more red meat, nuts like pumpkin and hemp seeds, and dark, green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale.
Additionally, you can take an iron supplement to improve your levels.
Anemia is when your body lacks the appropriate amount of red blood cells, thus reducing the amount of oxygen that can reach cells. A lack of oxygen in scalp cells can result in early hair shedding.
Iron or B vitamin deficiencies, chronic illness, or inflammation can cause anemia. Treating the underlying cause can address hair-shedding problems.
Possible treatments include supplements and anti-inflammatories to help improve red blood cell levels and blood flow.
9. Extreme stress
Finally, stress can be a leading cause of many conditions, including diffuse hair loss. This is because, during stressful periods, your body will produce cortisol, a hormone that heightens our response to danger.
But too much of this hormone can inhibit a hair follicle from growing new strands.
Additionally, stress can negatively influence other areas of your life, such as sleep hygiene, physical and mental well-being, and diet.
This hair loss is often only temporary – once you control your stress levels, the diffuse thinning and receding hairline should gradually recover.
What are the symptoms of diffuse thinning?
Did you know that a certain amount of hair loss is perfectly normal? We lose between 50-100 hairs each day. Under normal circumstances, our body can easily replace these hairs.
But what if hair loss seems unusually higher, and you’re beginning to see noticeable thinning and baldness developing? Should you be concerned?
Diffuse thinning can happen suddenly or gradually over a more extended period. It can take shape in diffuse thinning crown hair loss but it can affect any part of your body.
There are three core symptoms you should be mindful of:
- Visible hair thinning across your scalp
- Excessive hair loss
- The scalp becomes easy to see, especially at the hairline, crown, and mid-region
How do doctors diagnose diffuse thinning?
Doctors will use various methods to establish whether you’re suffering from diffuse thinning and the possible underlying causes.
These may include simple blood tests and examining your medical history. They may also perform a hair pull test to see your hair’s strength and resilience.
8 options to treat diffuse thinning
Because every patient is unique, there are various ways to treat diffuse thinning. What might work for one person may not work for you.
With that in mind, you should explore the following options:
1. Underlying health condition
Excessive shedding can directly result from an underlying medical condition you are currently facing.
These can include stress and anxiety disorders to autoimmune diseases like lupus and alopecia areata. Certain medications may also have the unwanted side-effect of thinning hair.
It’s essential to seek a formal diagnosis from your doctor, as they can offer you an effective course of treatment for both your condition and resulting hair loss.
Additionally, your doctor may be able to highlight ways to prevent future hair loss from occurring.
Minoxidil is one of the most popular medications for treating hair loss in men and women. Commonly sold under the brand name Rogaine, this drug is FDA-approved and can be bought over the counter.
So why is Minoxidil so effective? This drug is a vasodilator, which widens blood vessels and improves blood flow and circulation.
This, in turn, ensures hair follicles receive all the necessary nutrients required to grow larger. It can be used for male and female pattern hair loss and comes in topical and foam solutions for the ultimate convenience.
But, like all medications, there may be side effects that you must be conscious of. Some of these include increased facial hair growth, a burning sensation on your scalp, and acne.
Finally, Minoxidil is not a permanent solution to diffuse hair loss – you must continue taking the drug to maintain any results it yields.
If you see no difference in hair volume after 6 to 12 months, consult your doctor and consider alternative treatments.
Another popular FDA-approved drug is Finasteride, a prescription-only medication used to treat various male conditions, including male pattern baldness, enlarged prostate glands, and prostate cancer.
It is most commonly prescribed orally, but topical solutions do exist. It blocks the sex hormone testosterone from turning into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is known to have adverse effects on your hair, attaching to specific receptors in scalp tissue and gradually shrinking the size of hair follicles.
Follicles shrink so much that they cannot produce or sustain new hair strands. But by taking Finasteride, the levels of DHT in your system can be lowered, and thus slow down or even prevent further loss.
That said, there are some side effects that you need to consider. These include erectile dysfunction, decreased ejaculate volume, lower libido, and breast enlargement.
Because the medication focuses on hormone levels, it is not approved for women or children.
4. PRP treatment
Platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP, is an innovative treatment that can address a range of hair loss conditions, from common androgenetic alopecia to rarer forms of alopecia areata incognita and more.
It works by taking a patient’s own blood and extracting platelets. These are then injected into balding areas to help heal wounds, regenerate the hair follicle, and stimulate regrowth.
The benefits of PRP are that it is safe and minimally invasive, though you may require more than one session for optimal results.
5. Low-level laser therapy
Another treatment you might consider is low-level laser therapy (LLLT). It works through a device known as a laser comb, which omits rays of light energy that stimulate cell growth and can also help reduce scalp inflammation.
LLLT is a popular choice for many reasons. Firstly, it is non-invasive, leaving no trace on your scalp. It is also relatively painless and may result in thicker, healthier-looking hair.
That said, results vary between people, and LLLT is best used in the early stages of your condition. It may not be suitable if you’ve extensive hair loss.
6. Hair growth shampoos
There are a variety of growth shampoos on the market that aim to combat hair shedding. They often work by strengthening the hair shaft, so strands won’t shed or break easily.
Additionally, they can help clean your scalp and reduce inflammation, thus creating the ideal conditions for hair growth.
That said, the results from growth shampoos vary from person to person. Their success relies heavily on the causes of your initial hair loss, and they may be unsuitable for severe forms of hair loss.
7. Hair loss supplements
Our body requires a range of essential minerals and vitamins to function correctly, including growing new hair. Hair loss supplements aim to replenish our stores and, in turn, stimulate follicles to grow.
It is important to note that there is still a lack of scientific studies on how effective growth supplements are. Most supporting evidence is anecdotal.
That said, they often contain helpful vitamins and minerals like Biotin, iron, and zinc that are building blocks to healthier hair and nails.
Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as their ingredients may be unsuitable for this form of hair loss, especially if an underlying condition is the root cause and not a deficiency.
8. Lifestyle changes
Easy lifestyle changes can yield significant results for your hair. For example, eating a balanced, healthy, and nutrient-rich diet is one of the most effective ways to support your hair.
Try to maximize your intake of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and avoid alcohol and sugars where possible.
As we’ve said, stress can contribute to many illnesses, especially hair loss. If you suffer from high-stress levels over a long period, try to develop new ways to alleviate your anxiety and relax.
If your hair is brittle and thin, you should avoid using heated hairstyling devices, such as hairdryers, straighteners, or curling irons. These can further dehydrate hair and break them.
Finally, you can try to implement simple but effective physical therapies like scalp massages. Using your fingertips, gently massage in a circular motion across your scalp for five minutes each day.
Use essential oils to maximize health benefits and replenish and revitalize your scalp.
Diffuse hair loss is a challenging condition to experience. Not only does it rob you of your confidence, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, as you suspect an underlying medical condition is at fault.
Because there are many reasons why you’ve developed diffuse thinning, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible. Only then can you find the root cause of the problem and then look for an effective solution.
Simple lifestyle changes and an effective treatment plan can help reduce, stop and even prevent this form of hair loss from occurring.
Diffuse thinning can sometimes be reversed or improved, especially if it’s caused by reversible factors like stress, nutritional deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances. Treatment effectiveness varies depending on the underlying cause and individual response.
Diffuse thinning does not always lead to baldness. Its progression depends on the underlying cause and how it’s managed. In many cases, with appropriate treatment and care, hair loss can be stopped or reversed.
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