Increased hair loss and thinning hair as women approach the menopause is due to changes in hormonal levels in the body. In fact noticing hair loss can be one of the first signs of approaching the menopause. It is caused in part by a drop in estrogen (female hormones) levels produced by the ovaries, creating an imbalance between androgen (male hormones) and estrogen hormones. Testosterone is one of the hormones from the androgen group and increases as the estrogen levels fall. For men, testosterone is the hormone commonly associated with causing male pattern hair loss and although produced in much lower quantities in women, it creates a similar hair loss condition. This process is started by testosterone combining with an enzyme called Alpha5 reductase to create a substance called dihyrotestosterone (DHT). It is the DHT which is responsible for the hair loss. After the menopause the ovaries may continue to produce even more androgens than estrogen and this can result in further hair loss. It also doesn’t just affect hair on the scalp but body hair can also become thinner, just the opposite of men who tend to get more body hair as scalp hair thins. Some women however experience no menopausal hair loss or excessive thinning at all, the reasons for this are not yet fully understood.
Treatments and Advice
Many women are prescribed hormone therapy treatment (HRT) to counter some of the more severe symptoms of the menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, lack of sleep, mood swings, and sensitive skin. But HRT works by increasing the levels of estrogen to pre-menopausal levels. HRT is therefore also an effective hair loss treatment which reduces testosterone and DHT allowing hair to grow back.
There is also a prescription only drug called spironolactone that instead of raising estrogen levels, works in the opposite way by slowing down the production of androgens (testosterone) in the adrenal glands and ovaries. With less testosterone produced there is less damaging DHT produced and therefore less hair loss.
There are also a number of non drug based measures that can be used to slow down menopausal hair loss. For example gently massage the scalp when shampooing to increase blood flow to the hair roots. Also using good quality conditioners containing natural products like henna, helps to prevent breakage and reduce further hair loss. It is also important to eat a well balanced diet as healthy hair requires the minimum daily intake of the right minerals and vitamins. Try to eat plenty of fish, liver, dairy products, eggs, poultry, meat, etc, for vitamin A, Vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, also leafy vegetables, orange juice, avocado, beets and broccoli are a good source of folic acid.
Keep the hair short to help prevent mechanical breakage and have it layered to give the appearance of more volume. Try to avoid damaging the hair with hot hair dryers and heated hair straighteners and avoid chemically treating the hair with dyes, tints and bleaches.
Hair loss caused by the menopause is a natural process but can be managed through special care and prescribed treatments. If you have any special concerns about this condition it is always advisable to consult your local GP as stress and worrying can make matters worse. Remember that you are not alone, many women experience the menopause and hair loss but there are now many effective treatments available.
Please visit our web site for more information and advice about the cause of hair loss in a woman.
By: John Tulley
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