A man with thinning hair at the top of his head

What Can You Do About Diffuse Thinning?

Hair shedding and general hair loss is a common occurrence in both men and women. Diffuse thinning refers to the gradual and progressive loss of hair across the scalp, thus it develops very slowly. 

Because of this, sometimes people don’t notice their hair has been falling out until their scalp is suddenly more visible through their hair. One of the first signs of diffuse alopecia is excessive hair fall either on your pillow, in your hairbrush or in the shower – so keep an eye out.

Summary

  1. What is Diffuse Thinning/ Diffuse Alopecia?
  2. What Causes Diffuse Hair Thinning?
  3. Can You Treat Thinning Hair?
  4. Conclusion

What Is Diffuse Thinning/ Diffuse Alopecia?

Alopecia presents itself differently from patient to patient, so occasionally some cause diffuse thinning across the scalp. For example, in Alopecia Areata patients, sometimes the hair loss is diffuse instead of defined coin-sized patches (so it’s sparse rather than localised). 

With diffuse alopecia, hair thinning makes the coverage of scalp hair look relatively thin and you can often see your scalp through the hair. In addition, signs of diffuse hair loss usually only occur across the entirety of your scalp and not on any other part of your body.

What is the hair growth cycle?

Humans lose 50-100 hairs per day as part of the natural hair growth cycle. This is a recurring process where the hair follicles go through growing and resting phases.

  1. Anagen
    This is the hair growth stage that lasts from 2-6 years (this determines your hair natural length).
  2. Catagen
    The transitional stage when your hair follicles move from growing to resting.
  3. Telogen
    This is the resting phase where the hair strand is released from the follicle (It’s sometimes called the shedding stage). 

In order to assess whether your loss of hair is excessive, your GP will conduct a pull test. They will gently pull against your hair to see how many hairs fall out, if excessive hair falls out then you will either be referred to have a skin biopsy if Alopecia Areata is a possibility. Otherwise, they will prescribe you medication.

diffuse thinning in the parting of hair

What Causes Diffuse Hair Thinning?

Diffuse thinning is usually caused by telogen effluvium whereby an unusually high number of hair follicles move into the telogen stage prematurely. However, it is also triggered by other factors, including:

  1. Stress
    Excessive levels of stress cause your hair follicles to be pushed into the telogen phase prematurely. Thus, within a few months, you experience a large amount of hair shedding.
  2. Androgenetic Alopecia
    Primarily caused by hormones, Androgenetic hair loss is a gradually progressive form of diffuse thinning. It’s seen in the parting area in female pattern hair loss which gradually expands.

    In men, the pattern of hair loss happens first as a receding hairline and then moves to the crown and top of the scalp.
  3. Pregnancy and childbirth
    During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels change many times within 9 months which affects hair growth. Then during childbirth, the amount of stress the body goes through pushes the hair follicles into the telogen phase early.
  4. Genetics
    Hair loss, in general, can be caused significantly by genetics. It’s not fully understood, but people with hair loss often.
  5. Thyroid disease
    Due to the hormonal changes that thyroid disease causes, diffuse thinning can occur when the hair follicles become under attack. Typically, thyroid related hair loss is only temporary, so your hair should naturally grow back. 
  6. Poor nutrition
    Malnutrition or simply a poor diet impacts the health of your hair follicles are the rate at which your hair grows. Our hair follicles need sufficient nutrients to function and thus you need to be consuming enough to maintain proper function.
A hair surgeron inserting hair implants into a mans scalp

Can You Treat Thinning Hair?

The choice of treatment depends on the cause of your thinning hair. Treatments options for thinning hair include:

  • Minoxidil
    A foam that you apply to the scalp where hair loss is present. It’s available over the counter and takes several months before it begins to work.
  • Finasteride
    Provided in tablet form, this hair loss treatment takes 4 months before results begin to show. Also, once you stop taking these pills, your hair loss returns.
  • Hair transplant
    Depending on the cause, a hair transplant is a suitable treatment for diffuse thinning hair. If the thinning is just at the top of the scalp, (for example, with male and female pattern baldness) then it’s the ideal scenario for a hair transplant.

Conclusion

Sparse hair loss (aka diffuse thinning) can happen to anyone irrelevant of gender, race or age. It refers to the gradual thinning of scalp hair that is only noticeable by others when your scalp is visible through the fine coverage of hairs that remain.

Both men and women experience the symptoms of diffuse alopecia differently. For example, hair loss in women is only visible in the parting hair first.

Whereas in male pattern hair loss occurs across the top of the scalp. Although they present differently, the psychological effect they have on each individual is very similar. Many patients with diffuse hair loss experience social anxiety and self-esteem issues.

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