With diffuse hair loss, which is medically called alopecia diffusa or diffuse alopecia, hair falls out over the entire head. Diffuse hair loss is not a disease in itself, but a sign or the result of an existing disease or disorder. In most cases, hair begins to grow again with treatment tailored to the trigger or after the cause has been eliminated.
What is Diffuse Hair Loss?
According to DigoPaul, diffuse hair loss is the gradual thinning of the scalp hair. ‘Diffuse’ means ‘distributed’ or ‘scattered’, that is, the hair does not only fall out in certain places, for example on the top of the head or on the forehead, but more or less evenly distributed over the whole head.
Diffuse hair loss differs from hereditary hair loss, which leads to the so-called receding hairline or a balding head. A certain amount of hair loss is normal, around 100 hairs per day.
The hair root goes through a certain cycle, at the end of which the hair falls out and a new one begins to grow. With diffuse hair loss, this rhythm is disturbed.
There are several possible causes of diffuse hair loss. Certain infectious diseases can cause hair to fall out, such as severe flu, pneumonia, typhoid or syphilis. Also, diabetes can lead to diffuse hair loss.
The use of certain medications can cause increased hair loss. The cytostatics administered during chemotherapy are supposed to prevent the growth of malignant cells, but they also disrupt the growth cycle of the hair roots. Another reason for diffuse hair loss can be hormonal changes. Diffuse hair loss usually occurs after discontinuation of hormone preparations or after pregnancy, but also with the onset of menopause.
Also, stress or depression are possible triggers. In addition, an inadequate diet, as occurs with extreme slimming diets or with anorexia and bulimia, can lead to the hair roots receiving too few nutrients and diffuse hair loss occurs.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Diffuse hair loss can be recognized by the fact that it is not limited to certain regions of the head. It occurs all over the head and causes the hair to become thinner overall and eventually fall out. Light spots on the head quickly appear, which can appear on the sides as well as on the vertebrae.
Usually, diffuse hair loss does not result in complete baldness. However, the course can vary greatly from patient to patient, and the signs also differ significantly. Depending on the cause, the hair loss can only exist temporarily and then subside again. The light areas then often close again and the hair becomes stronger again.
Diffuse hair loss as a result of a serious illness can persist permanently. If the symptoms are based on an imbalance in the hormonal balance, accompanying symptoms such as increasing malaise and mood swings appear. Menstrual cramps can occur in women.
Men often suffer from erectile dysfunction and depressive moods. Drug-induced diffuse hair loss is often associated with skin irritation, dandruff or gastrointestinal complaints. In addition, irritability, tiredness and other symptoms can develop. Diffuse hair loss can be clearly diagnosed and specifically treated based on the symptoms mentioned.
Diagnosis & course
Diffuse hair loss is first noticed when combing or washing your hair. There is more hair left in the sink or comb than is usually the case. Over time you begin to see the change on the head, the hair becomes so thin that the scalp shimmers through. Men often see this as normal, hereditary hair loss, for women it is far more problematic.
Hair falls out very quickly during chemotherapy, usually within 3-4 weeks. If there are other underlying causes, diffuse hair loss is slow and gradual. The course is based on how severe the damage to the hair roots is. Diffuse hair loss usually does not lead to complete baldness.
In order to find out the causes – if they are not known, as in the case of chemotherapy – the doctor will first record the patient’s medical history and living conditions. In addition, the scalp is examined, as well as the individual hair roots. A blood test can provide information about deficiencies or the increased concentration of certain substances and helps to make a diagnosis of diffuse hair loss.
In most cases, the patient loses all of the hair on his head due to the diffuse hair loss. This is a very serious aesthetic complication, especially for women, and can lead to psychological complaints and depression. However, hair loss also leads to inferiority complexes and decreased self-esteem in men.
Often, however, the hair grows back once the underlying disease has been eliminated. In most cases, in addition to the causal treatment, therapy by a psychologist is necessary in order to protect the patient from severe psychological complaints. Various means can also be used that stimulate hair growth again and thus counteract hair loss.
However, the hair loss can only go away if the underlying disease has been completely resolved. There are therefore no further complications in the treatment. If hair loss occurs due to a lack of nutrients, the person affected can counteract this relatively easily. Hair loss itself does not reduce life expectancy. However, if this has occurred in the course of cancer, the usual complications of a tumor occur.
When should you go to the doctor?
Diffuse hair loss is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of another disorder. The line between normal hair loss and hair loss that requires treatment is fluid. If someone is concerned about losing too much hair, they should try to quantify the hair loss. If the sieve of the sink is almost clogged after washing your hair, the hair should be removed, dried and then counted.
Long hair in particular looks very numerous very quickly. Loss of up to a hundred hairs on your head is completely natural and nothing to worry about. If significantly more hair is lost over a longer period of time, however, a doctor should be consulted. Diffuse hair loss can have very different causes. The family doctor is suitable as the first point of contact. If he is unable to make a diagnosis, he will refer the patient to a specialist, usually a dermatologist.
Women who suddenly experience increased hair loss after pregnancy or childbirth should see their gynecologist. This phenomenon, which occurs quite often, is not, however, diffuse hair loss, but a hormone-related form.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of diffuse hair loss is based on its cause. If a disease is the cause, it will be treated. If nutritional errors are to blame for the loss of hair, it is advisable to change your eating habits, preferably accompanied by a nutritionist.
Psychotherapy is recommended for psychological problems as the cause. Furthermore, the treatment of diffuse hair loss can be supported by preparations that strengthen the hair roots. There are both means for ingestion and tinctures that are applied directly to the scalp. The latter have the beneficial side effect that the scalp is massaged when applied, which also has a positive effect on the hair roots.
In the case of diffuse hair loss, aggressive hair care products should not be used and no styling products should be used. The hair should be cared for with a gentle shampoo and should not be exposed to extreme heat from the blow dryer. Once the causes of diffuse hair loss have been eliminated, the hair will in most cases grow back normally within a year.
Outlook & forecast
In the case of diffuse hair loss, there is usually no change in the current condition without treatment. In the worst case, the hair loss increases and the person concerned gradually becomes bald. In addition, secondary diseases can occur and thus further worsen the general state of health.
Treatment has the prospect of improving the situation. If the measures taken are effective, the patient can regain a full head of hair within a year. The prognosis of hair regrowth is therefore generally good when medical care is used, since in most cases the cause of the hair loss can be treated.
Often there are deficiency symptoms that can be diagnosed in a blood test. An existing imbalance is then treated with medication or a change in diet. This leads to a relief of the symptoms and a new growth of the hair that has fallen out begins.
If diffuse hair loss occurs again after stopping the medication, further measures must be taken. It is often necessary to permanently change the previous lifestyle and food intake. In this way, a relapse of the symptoms can be avoided. If the underlying disease is inflammation, this is also treated with medication. The immune system is supported so that sufficient defenses are available and symptoms can be relieved.
A balanced diet is helpful for healthy hair growth. In this way, diffuse hair loss due to a lack of nutrients can be safely prevented. If there are other diseases, it is advisable to treat them quickly and comprehensively so that diffuse hair loss does not arise in the first place.
With this disease, the possibilities and measures of follow-up care are in most cases severely limited, in some cases not possible at all. The hair loss cannot always be treated causally, so that in many cases only symptomatic therapy is available to those affected. The patient is also dependent on a diagnosis as early as possible in order to prevent and limit further complications or complaints.
The earlier the hair loss is recognized and further treated, the better the course of the disease in most cases. As a rule, self-healing cannot occur in hair loss, so medical treatment is always necessary. The treatment itself is mostly done through the use of creams or ointments that are applied directly to the scalp.
However, a cure cannot be guaranteed, so that in some cases there is no improvement in the hair loss. The affected person should use the medication regularly and protect the scalp. You should be examined regularly by a doctor. It is not uncommon for another underlying disease to lead to hair loss, so this should be recognized and treated as quickly as possible. As a rule, hair loss does not reduce the patient’s life expectancy.
You can do that yourself
Diffuse hair loss is usually only a temporary phenomenon. Once the causes have been remedied, the hair usually grows back. Those affected can do a few things themselves to counteract these symptoms.
First of all, all aggressive care products and any styling products should be discontinued. Applying strong heat from a hairdryer or straightening iron also has a negative effect. In addition, the hair does not have to be washed every day. Those affected should choose a mild shampoo for cleaning. In the pharmacy or drug store available birch water can be supportive used as a hair rinse. It cares for the hair and scalp in a mild way.
Preparations that promise increased hair growth are also available. They strengthen the hair roots and stimulate them. Such products are available as tinctures or in tablet form. When applying a care product, the scalp should be massaged intensively. This has also been shown to promote hair growth as it stimulates blood circulation.
Often there is also a lack of vital substances in patients with diffuse hair loss. This can be determined with the help of a blood count. A change in diet and occasional use of dietary supplements can counteract this deficiency. This change should be supported by a nutritionist, attending doctor or alternative practitioner.
Mental health should also be checked. If there is depression or stress caused by stress, this should be countered with therapy or relaxation methods.