What Is Diffuse Hair Loss & How To Treat It?

Hair thinning that occurs over the entire head rather than just in one area is known as diffuse alopecia.

Visible scalp and hair in drains are the most common signs of this type of hair loss. Your hair may appear thinner and less dense along the hairline, mid-scalp, and crown than it normally is.

Diffuse alopecia can affect both men and women. Usually, it’s treatable and reversible. However, medical intervention may be needed to stop the progress of hair loss.

Uncommonly though, diffuse hair loss resulting from some types of hair loss can also cause complete baldness.  

What Is Diffuse Hair Loss?

When hair loss affects the entire scalp instead of being localised (limited to a distinct area), it’s known as diffuse hair loss.

diffuse hair loss

According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, telogen effluvium (hair loss due to physical or emotional shock) is the most common cause of diffuse hair thinning in females.

However, it’s also commonly seen in cases of chronic telogen effluvium (hair loss lasting for more than 6 months) and female androgenetic alopecia.

It should be noted that while pattern baldness in men follows a distinct pattern, in women, it’s usually diffuse in the top and crown.

But diffuse hair thinning in males can also occur. Also, it is fairly common, considering 50% of men and women are affected by it, according to DermNet.

What Is Diffuse Thinning?

The term diffuse thinning is also used to refer to diffuse hair loss. But thinning is a direct consequence of hair loss.

With fewer strands on your head, your hair will feel less dense, not necessarily in thickness but in the number of hairs/unit area.

For instance, in diffuse thinning, your ponytail might feel half as thick, and your scalp might also be more visible through the hair.

What Are The Causes Of Diffuse Hair Loss? 

Diffuse alopecia or diffuse hair loss can occur due to one or more of the following reasons. 

Poor Diet 

Malnutrition can shock the body and make the hair enter the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle.

Vitamins and proteins play an important role in the growth and development of hair.

Therefore, you need to consume these micro and macronutrients to make sure that your hair continues to grow normally. 

Genetics

As mentioned above, diffuse thinning hair loss can also be caused by pattern baldness in women.

While the word “pattern” would suggest that the loss of hair occurs in a distinct pattern, it is sometimes, but not always the case.

In women, pattern baldness can cause diffuse hair loss at the top and crown of the scalp.

Stress & Exhaustion

Stress is another one of the diffuse hair loss causes.

During the growth phase of the hair cycle, hair follicle stem cells are activated for the development of the hair follicle.

stem cell

However, the activation of the hair follicle stem cells takes place through the production of a protein (GAS6).

Research has found that in times of stress, the production of this protein is suppressed. And that, in turn, prevents the growth of hair. Therefore, stress can also cause diffuse thinning hair loss

Sleep Deprivation 

Not having a good night’s rest can also make you feel more stressed, which can cause hair loss.

Without adequate sleep, you won’t be able to process and tackle your daily stresses as easily.

poor sleep stress

That’s why it’s important to sleep for at least 8 hours per night. Otherwise, lack of sleep can also cause hair loss in a plethora of ways.

Diseases

Diffuse hair thinning can also be a result of various illnesses, such as: 

  • Anaemia
  • Lupus’ hair loss
  • Amyloidosis
  • Liver failure
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Lymphoproliferative syndrome
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Chronic infections such as HIV and secondary syphilis

Other than that, certain skin conditions (psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis) can also make you lose hair over the entire scalp. 

Medication 

Not just illnesses but medications can also cause diffuse hair loss. Some drugs that induce this kind of alopecia include: 

Can Alopecia Areata Cause Diffuse Hair Loss?

Alopecia areata can cause diffuse as well as patchy hair loss.

However, not all types of alopecia areata cause generalised thinning.

Alopecia Incognita is a rare type of alopecia areata that causes diffuse alopecia. In this, hair loss can occur suddenly and can be quite extensive.

Other than that, alopecia areata barbae, which affects the beard area, can also occur diffusely.

Lastly, Marie Antoinette Syndrome is another type of alopecia areata which is characterised by diffuse hair loss and the colour of the hair turning white.

How To Stop Diffuse Thinning? 

There are different ways to treat diffuse alopecia. 

Healthy Lifestyle & Diet 

As mentioned earlier, malnutrition can shock the body and cause diffuse hair loss. Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet is key to having healthy hair.

Make sure to include leafy greens, lean proteins, eggs, fish, fruits, and vegetables in your diet.

Healthy food

If you have a nutritional deficiency, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements (like proteins or vitamins for hair growth).

Other than that, make sure to exercise and sleep for at least 8 hours every night to feel well-rested. 

Medicines 

Minoxidil and finasteride are FDA-approved drugs for hair loss.

Minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the scalp, and finasteride stops the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (the hormone responsible for hair loss).

However, it should be noted that finasteride is only prescribed for men, as it can cause birth defects in a male foetus if taken by females.

Other than that, one downside of minoxidil and finasteride is that they only work for as long as you apply/take them.

Once you stop taking these drugs, hair loss will resume. Also, these drugs don’t work for everyone. 

PRP Injections

PRP injections are also quite popularly used for stimulating hair growth.

In this, the patient’s own blood is taken and put into a centrifuge which separates the platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

Centrifugation

It contains growth factors and proteins that rejuvenate the scalp and promote hair growth.

Since PRP doesn’t contain any additives, it is completely safe and does not cause any adverse effects. 

Is Hair Transplantation Performed In Diffuse Hair Loss?

Diffuse hair loss affecting the entire scalp is a contraindication for a hair transplant because you won’t have a stable donor area.

Keep in mind that hair transplants work because the hair at the back and sides of the scalp (donor area) is unaffected by the DHT hormone that causes pattern baldness.

These grafts are taken out and implanted into the bald spots. But even when this happens, the donor grafts are not impacted by the presence of DHT.

This is known as donor dominance.

Donor area
A diffuse hair loss hair transplant is not possible without a stable donor area.

However, when hair loss is unpatterned and generalised, no hair on the scalp is spared. The hair at the front, top, crown, back and sides will miniaturise permanently.

Therefore, even if the back or side hair is transplanted to the bald spots, you will eventually lose it, and your diffuse thinning hair transplant will fail.

On the other hand, if you have diffuse patterned hair loss (like in some women, it’s generalised but limited to the top and crown), you may be a potential candidate for a hair transplant.

According to research published in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, patients with diffuse unpatterned hair loss are not suitable for a hair transplant. But those with diffuse patterned hair loss can be suitable.

Patterned and unpatterned hair loss
Unpatterned diffuse hair loss (left) and patterned diffuse hair loss (right). A hair transplant is possible with the latter.

So, if it’s the latter, you can consider getting an affordable hair transplant in Istanbul.

Of course, if you have diffuse hair loss due to a type of temporary alopecia like telogen effluvium, you don’t need to have a hair transplant in the first place.

That kind of hair loss resolves on its own without the need for any intervention.

Conclusion

Fortunately, diffuse hair loss is not always permanent and can be reversed.

Still, if you’re experiencing significant hair loss, make sure to consult a medical professional.

Hair loss can be symptomatic of an underlying illness.

Correct diagnosis and early treatment can halt the progress of hair loss and save time and resources.

Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan

Is diffuse thinning reversible?

Usually, diffuse thinning is reversible. However, if it’s due to androgenetic alopecia, it can also be permanent.

Does diffuse thinning always lead to baldness?

Diffuse thinning doesn’t always lead to baldness. Most commonly, it occurs due to telogen effluvium. It’s a temporary hair loss and unlikely to cause baldness.

Does diffuse thinning ever stop?

Diffuse thinning can stop (although not always), but it’s important that you address the underlying cause of the problem.

Is diffuse hair loss permanent?

Diffuse hair loss can be permanent in the case of androgenetic alopecia. That’s because it permanently miniaturises the hair follicles.

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