When should you see a doctor for hair loss? It’s one of the top questions that visitors to this site ask me. Some people think that hair loss is just an aesthetic problem. It is true that in many cases, hair loss is genetic. If you are losing hair in the same pattern as one of your parents, there is probably no underlying medical problem and you simply have a genetic predisposition. That being said, there are some very real medical problems that can cause hair loss so in some cases it’s worth a visit to your doctor.
First of all, I always recommend seeing a doctor if you have any doubt anywhere in the back of your mind that something isn’t right. Human intuition can be very powerful and no one knows your body better than you do. If you feel something is off, call your doctor. Here are some other instances where you might want to get an expert opinion.
1. A Sudden Change in Hair Loss
As you probably already know, it’s normal to shed some hair every day- some estimates put that number at about 100 strands per day. It would be a difficult task to count this yourself but the point here is that everyone loses hair every day and it’s considered normal and not an indication of other problems. This is called normal hair loss.
Excessive hair loss, on the other hand, occurs when you lose way more than the average and it’s going to be pretty noticeable. Perhaps you used to clean out your brush once a month and now you have to do it weekly. Maybe you’ve been stopping up your shower drain more quickly than usual. Any time you experience a sudden and very noticeable increase in hair loss, you should really get a checkup to make sure nothing more serious is going on. And if your hair is falling out in clumps, do not ignore it. Don’t panic- it could still be nothing but it’s always better to check.
One exception to this is if you’ve recently given birth. Many women experience excessive hair loss in the months after having a baby. This is temporary and completely normal. Pregnant women lose much less hair than the average 100 strands per day. After giving birth, your body is just shedding all the extra hair that didn’t fall out during pregnancy so don’t be alarmed. The next few months won’t be fun but it will go away on its own.
2. You Have a Preexisting Condition
If you have any sort of preexisting medical condition, it is important to talk to your doctor if you notice excessive hair loss. This is particularly important if you are considering using any type of treatment. While vitamins for hair loss are generally considered safe, even certain vitamins can cause interactions with other medications if taken in very high doses. That’s why it’s vital to call your doctor before beginning any sort of internal treatment for hair loss. This also includes alternative remedies. You could also check with a pharmacist to see if there are any known interactions. The last thing you want to do is make your medical condition worse or render your medication useless.
3. You have signs of infection in the scalp.
If your hair loss comes on suddenly and you notice a change in the skin of your scalp at the same time, there could be a bacterial infection and it’s important for a doctor to help you find the right antibiotics to clear it up. If your scalp suddenly becomes red, itchy, swollen, painful, or has discharge or pus, you definitely need to see a doctor. This is something that a doctor can easily control but you can’t treat it on your own. In this particular case, a dermatologist is the right doctor to see but most primary care physicians are able to deal with it as well.
4. You have started a new medication or medical treatment recently.
Many times, sudden hair loss can be attributed to prescription medications. While this is certainly no fun to experience, it is very likely that losing some hair is preferable to suffering whatever ailment you were prescribed the medication for. However, if you find the hair loss particularly troublesome, talk to your doctor about alternative medications that might accomplish the same goal without having hair loss as a side effect.
Never, ever stop taking a medication just because you think it is making your hair fall out. Always talk to your doctor first and find out if it is safe to quit or if alternative treatments exist.
5. You feel weak or always exhausted.
Some people start losing hair due to a chemical imbalance in the body. One common culprit of sudden hair loss is thyroid disease. Thyroid problems are not uncommon and are often accompanied by feelings of weakness or exhaustion. You could also be experiencing a vitamin deficiency, such as zinc or iron deficiency. In those cases, vitamins might be all you need to turn the problem around. A simple blood test is usually enough to diagnose these deficiencies.
Remember that hair loss has many potential causes and not all of them are serious. Most people will be relieved to learn that their hair loss is simply genetic. However, ruling out medical causes is always a good idea. It’s better to catch these problems early than try to fix them after they have gotten more serious. If any of these five guidelines apply to you, call your doctor for peace of mind.