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Diffuse Thinning: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on November 28, 2022

Hair loss can be a completely normal part of life and most often does not pose a concern, especially when it comes to aging; in fact, over 85% of men [1], and 50% of women [2], will experience hair loss in their lifetime. However, it can sometimes be an incredibly difficult experience when adjusting to the reality of hair loss, both physically and psychologically.

Diffuse thinning is one of the most common types of hair loss, with two-thirds of men experiencing appreciable hair loss by the age of 35 [3], and hair thinning in women becoming increasingly common by the age of 50; so, if you’re worried that your hair is suddenly looking thin, you’re certainly not alone.

In this article, we’ll explore diffuse thinning along with the signs, causes, and treatment options available to you.

What is Diffuse Thinning?

Diffuse thinning is a type of hair loss which, through hair shedding, thins the hair and gives an almost see-through appearance, making the scalp visible. Another name for this form of hair loss is ‘diffuse unpatterned alopecia’; it differs from other forms of hair loss as it does not follow androgenetic alopecia patterns and instead affects the entire scalp, rather than creating a receding hairline or affecting specific patches of the scalp. 

This form of hair loss affects both men and women at any age, and though hereditary factors can cause it, there are many other reasons why you could be experiencing diffuse thinning.

What Causes Diffuse Thinning?

Telogen Effluvium

While there are a few reasons that you may develop diffuse thinning, one of the most common causes is a condition called telogen effluvium.

This form of hair loss is usually temporary and can be brought on by stress and/or trauma. However, there are myriad other reasons why you may develop telogen effluvium. For example, changes in hormone levels, thyroid conditions, certain medications, and deficiencies.

Some of the common symptoms that accompany telogen effluvium (apart from thinning hair) are bald patches, and losing visible clumps of hair when showering, or brushing hair.

A healthy scalp has some hairs which are in the anagen (growth) phase, and the catagen (resting) phase. A small percentage of the hairs are usually in the telogen (shedding) phase. Telogen effluvium occurs when anagen hairs prematurely enter into the telogen (shedding) phase.

Telogen effluvium doesn’t usually happen straight away, as it can take time for the hairs to transition between phases and shed; this form of hair diffuse thinning usually isn’t permanent either, as it will grow back once the condition has been treated.

Age

One of the most common causes of diffuse thinning is age; though it can be normal to experience hair loss in your younger years, the inevitability of age is a natural cause of diffuse thinning. 

Though some people who experience diffuse thinning due to age may choose to receive treatment for it, others may choose to embrace it – either way is valid, and completely up to the individual.

Male & Female pattern hair loss

  • Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia), most commonly affects 50% of men over the age of 50, however, it can affect men of any age [5]. This form of hair loss can be hereditary, being passed down through families; it is associated with the male sex hormones, androgens, which regulate hair growth. 

According to the Norwood Scale [6], the further along your male pattern baldness is, the more likely you are to experience visible diffuse thinning.

  • Female pattern baldness is a hereditary type of hair loss; the condition affects the scalp and part-line; when female pattern baldness reaches later stages, diffuse thinning can develop, affecting the whole scalp. 

The Ludwig Scale can help to classify the progression of female pattern baldness and is a good scale of referral for those who may be experiencing this form of hair loss.

Anagen effluvium

This form of hair loss can develop due to severe trauma such as medications with high toxicity, or harsh medical treatment like chemotherapy; as the condition causes you to lose a large amount of hair at once, diffuse thinning will be visible across the whole scalp. The condition weakens the hair which allows breakage to occur more easily.

Anagen effluvium is usually reversible, with the hair growing back once the treatment has ceased.

Alopecia areata incognita

This form of alopecia areata can occur suddenly, causing hair shedding and overall diffuse thinning. Instead of losing hair over a longer course of time, you will usually see a change within a few weeks.

Diffuse alopecia areata

Diffuse alopecia areata is another form of alopecia areata, however, it occurs over a longer period of time. Widespread thinning usually accompanies this form of hair loss, eventually affecting the whole scalp.

Signs and Symptoms of Diffuse Thinning

With diffuse thinning, you may suddenly see a change in your hair growth, or over a longer period. These are a few of the signs that you may be experiencing diffuse thinning:

You can usually see a portion of your scalp through where your hairline parts. However, diffuse thinning will cause your hair to thin to the point that your whole scalp will be visible under any lighting conditions.

This is the most common sign of diffuse thinning. Your hair will start to visibly thin out, revealing your hairline, crown, and mid-scalp easier.

We will usually lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day, which is totally normal, however with diffuse thinning, you may notice that you are losing a lot more than this. A common sign can be excessive hair on your pillow or in your shower drain.

Treatment For Diffuse Thinning

Diffuse thinning is usually temporary, and therefore reversible with the right medication and/or lifestyle changes. It is always best to approach a professional when looking for treatment for diffuse thinning.

Lifestyle changes

If your diffuse thinning is caused by telogen effluvium, it will almost always reduce when the problem at hand has been dealt with. This could mean ceasing certain medications (at your doctor’s approval) or reducing stress. A good healthcare provider will be able to advise you on how to stop diffuse thinning caused by telogen effluvium. They’ll perform a pull test, biopsy, and blood count to ensure that it is, in fact, what you are experiencing.

Medication

Minoxidil is a medication that comes in the form of either liquid or foam, and is applied directly to the scalp, twice daily- its most common brand name is Rogaine®. This medication works to widen the blood vessels which promotes hair growth. However, there is a current lack of research that helps us to understand exactly how Minoxidil works to promote hair growth. Existing studies [6] support the theory that Minoxidil works as a vasodilator, improving blood flow to the scalp.

Finasteride is a commonly prescribed drug for hair loss and hair thinning; like any other medication, Finasteride’s effectiveness depends on the stage of hair loss. The medication is prescribed in the form of an oral tablet. The two most common brand names are Proscar and Propecia. 

The medication works by decreasing the amount of the dihydrotestosterone hormone in a male’s body, which slows down male hair growth. For this reason, the answer to the question ‘Can women use Finasteride?’ is usually no. Finasteride is not usually prescribed to women. Studies have also shown that women using Finasteride were more likely to need a higher dose to see results, and therefore would experience harsher side effects. Learn more about Finasteride safety.

Growth shampoo

It can be difficult trying to find hair loss products that work, however according to research [7-8], some caffeine shampoos can work for stress-based hair loss and telogen effluvium, given that they are used accordingly and frequently. Though research does show that the efficacy of caffeine shampoos is limited due to the brief exposure time of the shampoo on the scalp. Using a caffeine-containing topical liquid is significantly more efficient at combatting hair loss as it can be left on the scalp for a longer period. [8-9].

When to speak to a hair loss specialist

If you suddenly begin to experience hair loss, or you’re worried about hair loss having a negative impact on your life, you should consult your doctor before making any decisions. Once underlying issues have been ruled out, you may wish to start your hair restoration journey. That’s where we can help.

We offer treatments such as FUE hair transplants and FUT, hair transplants for beards and eyebrows, along with alternative treatments. 

If you’re unsure where to begin, our Trichology team is on-hand to advise and guide you toward the best treatment for you. Hair transplants can effectively treat thinning hair, so it’s worth discussing this with a hair loss specialist.

At Wimpole Clinic, we offer a free consultation to all our clients along with answering any questions you may have. Book your free consultation with our team.

Diffuse Thinning: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options, Wimpole Clinic

Sources

  1. Why Do Men Go Bald: Male Baldness Causes, Treatment, Prevention
  2. Hair Loss in Women: Causes, Treatment and Prevention
  3. Men’s Hair Loss/ Introduction
  4. NHS: Hair Loss
  5. Male Pattern Baldness: Causes, Identification, and Prevention
  6. Minoxidil – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
  7. Role of a Caffeine Shampoo in Cosmetic Management of Telogen Effluvium
  8. National Library of Medicine: Caffeine-Based Topical Liquid Study
  9. Wiley Online Library: Scalp Application of Antioxidants Improves Scalp Condition

 

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on November 28, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on November 28, 2022

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