Hair that is falling out or losing its shine may point to an array of medical conditions, doctors say.
Normally, people lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, and more if they are under stress or following surgery or an illness, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
But more severe hair loss is linked to some 30 different diseases.
“Sudden changes, such as a significant loss of hair, are likely to be linked to a treatable health condition,” said Dr. Kate Viola, a dermatologist with Michigan’s Henry Ford Allegiance Health.
Hair loss can signal thyroid disorders, which become more common as people age. The thyroid plays a key role in controlling metabolism, weight, temperature and skin, hair and nail growth, and the symptoms of thyroid problems can be subtle and mistaken for normal aging signs.
One mark of iron deficiency can be hair loss. Iron is critical to the body’s production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues from the lungs.
Women’s hair may thin and fall out with the onset of menopause, thanks to hormonal changes. The body produces less estrogen and progesterone, which help hair grow, and more androgens, which shrink hair follicles.
With an iron deficiency, “your body channels oxygen to support vital functions as opposed to ones like keeping your hair intact,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, a leading New York gynecologist.
Then there’s vitamin A, which many people take for its antioxidant property. Anti-wrinkle regimens such as retinol are manufactured forms of vitamin A.
But too much vitamin A can cause hair loss, according to the AAD.
And diet can be a culprit. Slow-growing hair might mean a lack of protein, and dull hair might point to poor nutrition as well, experts say.