Healthbeat Report: Strands of Stress

September 27, 2012 (CHICAGO)

To look at her, you might never guess Laura Jinar has a bit of a beauty secret. She even had a hard time believing it at first.

"I just started noticing, oh, I have to use some voluminizing shampoo, okay, I have to use some root lifer. Maybe I need some hair spray," said Jinar.

The 31-one-year-old is losing her hair. It started about two years ago when her thick mane suddenly started thinning. Just a little bit at first. But it kept coming out. The first dermatologist she consulted told her not to be so vain. Her hair looked good, but the thinning continued.

"My hair is coming out in clumps, handfuls. So something is wrong regardless of what you tell me," said Jinar.

Dr. Lady Dy, a dermatologist at Rush University Medical Center, says there are still too many doctors who dismiss hair loss in women. But it's a real problem.

Hair loss is now estimated to affect one out of every four women by the age of 35. And genetics aside, stress is considered one of the top reasons.

"There are many types of stressors that can cause hair loss," said Dr. Dy.

The medical term is telogen effluvium. And it can happen if there is some kind of shock to the system. The result is hair follicles stop growing and shift into a resting phase and eventually fall out. The phenomenon can occur after events such as pregnancy, major surgery, weight loss or extreme stress.

"Hair loss itself is stress provoking so it's a vicious cycle," said Dr. Dy.

Newer research is even showing divorce is one of the strongest predictors of this kind of hair loss in women. For many people, it's temporary but in some cases it isn't.

"The longer you wait, the harder it is for you to get back or regrow the hairs you have lost," said Dy.

When it's chronic determining the cause is key. Doctors can check nutritional factors, Vitamin D levels and test for iron deficiency which can be treated. Minoxidil, which is found in Rogaine, can also help encourage new growth.

Dr. Dy knew almost instantly stress was behind Jinar's thinning hair. Her body may have been reacting to a new marriage, a new home and a new job. Treatments are now working.

"Trust your gut and early treatment is key because you can save yourself so much headache in the long run," said Jinar.

Research also shows it appears excessive drinking and or smoking boost the risk for thinning hair. To find out how you can check to see if your hair loss is more than what naturally occurs each day watch this video.

American Academy of Dermatology

Dr. Lady C. Dy
Rush University Medical Center
1725 W. Harrison St.
Suite 264
Chicago, IL 60612
Phone: (312) 942-2195
Fax: (312) 563-2263

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