Just as with men, women also experience hormonal fluctuations that may cause hair loss. The blood tests below can be administered to find many medical conditions associated with hormonal functions that may cause hair loss:
- ANA (antinuclear antibody) – for lupus or other autoimmune diseases
- Iron – for levels of serum iron, tIBC (total Iron binding capacity), or ferritin deficiencies
- estradiol – for ovarian output
- FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) – for ovarian output and ability to ovulate.
- LH (luteinizing hormone) – for status of ovarian output regarding the aging process
- free testosterone – indicates a woman’s ability to convert testosterone into estrogen.
- SHBG (sex hormone binding blobulin) – indicates status of male hormones
- TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormones) – indicates hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- total testosterone – indicates binding to proteins in the blood.
Note: It’s important to realize that if a medical condition is determined, this does not assure hair loss will cease simply because the condition is cured.
In some women genetic balding is related to male sex hormones such as testosterone and DHT as discussed in the section covering male hair loss. However, the loss of the female hormone, estrogen, can cause female hair loss as well as the presence of a female enzyme called aromatese.
Postpartum hair loss may similarly be due to the overall arrangement of hormones in the body after giving birth. Any time a change occurs related to hormones, hair is often the first visible part of the body to be effected. One of the reasons for this is because of the rapid growth of hair cells – they respond faster to changes in the body’s chemistry.
In pregnancy, the growth phase of hair (also called the “anagen” phase) is prolonged due to the increase of estrogen in the body. Consequently, pregnant women may experience thicker, lusher hair. Once the baby is born, though, estrogen levels drop and more hair moves into the resting or sleeping phase (also known as the telogen phase). This may cause growing hair to fall out because the resting stages can last up to a half-year. After giving birth, it can take over a year for a woman’s hair growth to return to normal.
And of course, menopausal women going through hormone swings may experience significant hair loss. The reason this happens has eluded doctors, but it’s possible that this is due to a drop in estrogen levels, which cause the same prolonged resting phase seen in postpartum women.
Keeping abreast of hormonal levels and hormone function plays an important part in maintaining good health for women, regardless of hair issues. Often hair loss can be reversed or minimized with the help of a certified professional if small changes in hormones can be noticed quickly.