Diagnosing genetic hair loss in women or ‘female pattern’ hair loss in which gradual thinning of the frontal and top areas of the scalp takes place, is a pretty straightforward process if either of the parents had a positive history of hair loss.
To observe miniaturization of hair follicles in women, a hand held instrument called densitometer may be used which has the capability of magnifying a specific area of scalp. Through this instrument it’s easy to diagnose miniaturization and decide the proper treatment than an individual may require.
Diffuse hair loss in women is more difficult to diagnose than a typical female pattern hair loss since it may be caused due to several other factors other than genetic ones. It’s essential that it is carefully diagnosed before it becomes extensive.
Besides using densitometer to detect miniaturization, there are two diagnostic methods which may be used by doctors to detect hair loss in women: hair-pull and hair pluck techniques. Basically in hair-pull technique, what the doctor will do is that he would take hold of around 20-30 hairs on the scalp of the individual and gently pull on them. If more than 5 hairs get broken then it means that one is facing a condition of increased shedding or telogen effluvium which is caused primarily due to stress, pregnancy, drug reactions caused by certain medications and a few other factors. In the other technique, i.e., hair pluck method around 20-30 hair strands are deliberately plucked from the scalp with the help of a small clamp. They are then examined under a microscope to find how many hairs on the scalp may be within the anagen(growing) phase and how many in the telogen (resting) phase. If more hairs are in the resting phase and there is hair loss occurrence then it is suggestive of the fact that one is facing a condition of telogen effluvium. It’s also possible to observe various abnormalities of hair shaft that may be causing hair breakage and loss with this help of this method.
Anagen effluvium is caused when more hairs are in the growing phase and an individual still loses hairs. It may be caused due to the effects of chemotherapy or radiation.
Another condition that’s hard to detect is chronic telogen effluvium which affects women in the age group of 30-60 years. It’s very abrupt in nature and its causes are unknown till now. The hairs primarily start to thin out near the temple regions and then advance to miniaturize in other areas of the scalp. Individuals may lose up to 50-400 hairs under this condition. This kind of hair loss may cure in a time period of 6-7 months or even take years.
Even after undergoing all these treatments, if the cause of hair loss is uncertain, further information on hair may be obtained by taking a scraping of the scalp or by obtaining a culture of fungus present on hair or scalp or even by undertaking a scalp biopsy to thoroughly detect the reasons for the cause of hair loss.
Symptoms in Women that Point to Excess Of Androgen
There are certain symptoms that are visible amongst women which may point to the fact that they may be producing excessive androgen quantities. They are:
- Irregular periods
- Cystic Acne
Diagnostic Tests for Other Medical Conditions
Some tests that may be conducted to identify hair loss caused by other medical conditions other than the ones mentioned above are:
- CBC (complete blood count): for detecting anemia, blood loss and various vitamin deficiencies which may be causing hair loss
- Serum iron: for detecting anemia
- T3, T4, TSH: to detect the occurrence of thyroid disease amongst individuals
- ANA : for diagnosing Lupus
- STS :to detect Syphilis
It’s essential that causes of hair loss are detected in the initial stages to limit its impact. Its of utmost importance that you seek help of a doctor in identifying the type of hair loss you may be undergoing to obtain the right and appropriate treatment.