Illness, Disease and Infection - Causes of Male Hair Loss

Hair loss can happen for emotional reasons such as a severe shock or a prolonged period of stress.

However, there may be an underlying physical cause for your hair loss. In fact, losing your hair may be symptomatic of a serious illness, disease or infection. Especially if you have always had a full head of hair.

If your hair is healthy and grows normally as part of the hair growth/loss cycle but starts to thin, become patchy or fall out then see your GP. He or she will examine you as well as asking you questions about your medical history. He/she may also arrange for you to undergo a series of tests to look for any underlying medical conditions.

There are illnesses or diseases which can result in hair loss. It’s as well to be aware of these so that you can distinguish between hair loss as a normal part of the hair growth cycle and the sign of a medical condition.

Illnesses, diseases or conditions which cause hair loss

These include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome: this is a disease of the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates hormones and many other processes in the body and is a finely tuned system. But, this delicate balance can be upset which results in excess hormone production.

    Excess hormones such as cortisol and androgens can be produced if there is a tumour on the adrenal gland or ingesting oral steroids for rheumatoid arthritis.

    This disease impacts upon a whole range of processes in the body which includes the hair growth/loss cycle. Excess amounts of androgens leads to hair loss.

  • Malnutrition: we assume this is only a problem in the Third World but it can happen in wealthier countries such as the UK. It is a result of insufficient intake of essential vitamins and minerals which leads to deficiencies.

    This condition can be caused by ‘crash dieting’, problems of the digestive system or simply not eating the right type of foods.

  • Hyper/Hypothyroidism: a disease of the thyroid glands. If your thyroids produce too much hormone then you have hyperthyroidism; if they produce too little then you have hypothyroidism.

    Either way they both affect the body’s metabolism which impacts upon other functions in the body such as hair growth. This can result in hair thinning and eventual loss.

  • Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): this is a disease of the autoimmune system. It takes the form of an inflammatory disease which affects many functions of the body including hair growth. In some cases it disrupts the normal hair growth/loss cycle and leads to temporary hair loss.

  • Anaemia: there are three types of anaemia which can all result in hair loss. These include: pernicious anaemia, iron deficiency and copper deficiency. Anaemia occurs as a result of a low red blood cell count and can trigger a whole range of symptoms which include hair loss.

  • Fungal infections: there are many types of fungal skin infections which affect different areas of the body. One such type is ringworm of the scalp which causes inflammation and hair loss.

Many people assume that cancer causes hair loss. They are technically correct in that it does but it is not the disease that causes hair loss rather it’s the treatment that does. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy use highly powerful drugs and/or high-energy rays to kill off cancer cells but they can damage the hair follicles.

Hair does start to re-grow after this treatment but this can take around 6 months or more to do so.

This is discussed in more detail in the Chemotherapy/Radiation Therapy section.

Male hair loss Guide Index:

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