If you’re a young woman who is experiencing noticeable hair loss on your head, one common explanation is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This endocrine condition affects up to 10% of childbearing-age women. Most are diagnosed between age 20 and 30, though many women go undiagnosed.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS causes an imbalance in your sex hormones, namely estrogen, progesterone and androgens such as testosterone. Its symptoms include weight gain, infertility, ovarian cysts, irregular periods, excess body and facial hair, acne, and thinning hair on the top of the head (known as androgenetic alopecia).
Women suffering from PCOS have increased levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for hair loss in both male- and female-pattern baldness. DHT attaches to receptors of your healthy hair follicles, causing them to thin and eventually fall out, while DHT-resistant hairs around the side of your head above the ears usually remain intact. The good news is that these DHT-resistant hair follicles make hair transplantation a viable and permanent solution for hair loss sufferers.
Although the cause of PCOS has not exactly been determined, most evidence suggests genetic and environmental factors. If your mother or sister has PCOS, this increases your chances of developing symptoms. Excess insulin, which is associated with type 2 diabetes, and low-grade inflammation are other common risk factors. PCOS is treatable and can lead to more serious health problems if left untreated, so be sure to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
How can I manage my hair loss?
A PCOS diagnosis can be very stressful, but there are simple steps you can take to manage the condition and slow your hair loss. Eating a diet high in leafy green vegetables and healthy fats, while reducing sodium intake, are great ways to help keep hair strands intact. Getting plenty of rest, enjoying lots of exercise and managing stress levels are important too.
Avoiding excessive heat styling; aggressive combing, brushing and towel drying; and heavy styling products that build up on the scalp can also help negate the effects of PCOS.
If you are a woman suffering from hair loss and are not sure of the cause, we recommend that you first seek your physician’s advice and treatment plan for any underlying conditions.
Once you know which type of hair loss you are experiencing, our team of experts can help you find the appropriate solutions.
You can schedule your free, private, no-obligation appointment with a hair loss counselor at any of our 70 offices throughout the U.S.