Normally, hair goes through a regular growth cycle. During the anagen phase, which lasts three to four years, the hair grows. During the telogen phase, which lasts about three months, the hair rests. At the end of the telogen phase, the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair. The average person loses about 100 hairs each day. Losing excess hair can be a normal part of growing older, but it also can have other causes, including drugs or disease.

As they age, many men lose the hair on top of their head, which eventually leaves a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the sides. This type of hair loss is called male-pattern baldness. It is caused by genes (from both parents) and it is fuelled by the male hormone, testosterone. In female-pattern baldness, the hair loss is different - it thins throughout the top of the scalp, leaving the hair in front intact.

A number of disorders can cause the hair to fall out. People who have an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata lose hair on their scalp, as well as on other parts of their body. Other health conditions that can cause excess hair loss include:

Medications such as antidepressants, retinoids, NSAIDs, blood thinners, birth control pills and other hormonal treatments, high blood pressure medication, chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Severe infections
Major surgery
Overactive or underactive thyroid
Hormonal imbalance
Severe stress
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
Fungal infections of the scalp
Iron deficiency anaemia
Pregnancy and childbirth

Certain hair care practices, such as wearing tight ponytails or weaves, or regularly bleaching or perming the hair can also lead to hair loss. Some people compulsively pull out their hair. This psychological disorder is called trichotillomania.

When hair loss is due to taking medication, stopping the drug usually prevents further hair loss, and the hair will eventually grow back. Hair also tends to grow back after most illnesses, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Wearing a wig or hat can cover the hair loss until the hair returns. Hair transplants are a more permanent hair-replacement solution.

Hair lost to male-pattern and female-pattern baldness will not grow back on its own, but there are medications that can in some cases help stop hair loss and even encourage hair to re-grow. Minoxidil is a treatment that is available over-the-counter to treat men and women. Finasteride is a pill that is available to men only by prescription. Topical or injected cortisone may also help re-grow hair lost to certain conditions.

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