What causes thin, slow-growing hair?
August 16, 2011 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Is there a medical condition that could be causing extremely slow growth and thinning of the hair?

I'm a male and over the past few years I've noticed some unusual things about my hair. Firstly, it is very thin and has been noticeably thin since I was 17 (I'm 20 now). When a hairdresser first mentioned it was unusually thin (especially for someone my age) I thought perhaps it was just very early developing male pattern baldness, which would be quite unusual in itself considering I have no family history of baldness at such an early age. But since then my hair hasn't been steadily getting thinner, rather I go through fluctuations of varying degrees of thickness. Right now my hair is probably thicker than it was 3 years ago, but still very thin for someone my age.

Also, I've noticed my hair seems to grow extremely slowly. I might get my hair cut 2 or 3 times a year and it will never even reach my shoulders. I can barely remember the last time I had my hair cut, as it was many months ago, but there hasn't been much growth at all in that time.

Is there any common medical conditions that might be causing my hair to grow very slowly and go through periods of thinning? As far as I'm aware I have a balanced and healthy diet.
posted by Spamfactor to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Have you ever had your thyroid function tested? Hypothyroidism can cause dry, coarse hair that's prone to breakage. Nutrient deficiencies can also affect hair growth. How's your diet?
posted by pecanpies at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Eek, sorry - just saw you wrote, "balanced and healthy." This could just be genetic. Does anyone in your family have hair like yours?
posted by pecanpies at 1:21 PM on August 16, 2011

Is the hair on the sides and back of your head as thin as the hair on top? If so, that would suggest that this isn't male pattern baldness. If there's a difference between the two, then I'd stay open to that possibility.
posted by the jam at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2011

My hairdresser explained to me that hair has different life cycles - sometimes, you will have thicker hair, sometimes thinner. It's all pretty natural, and perhaps you just have an extreme version of that. My hair also changed drastically when I started taking certain medications - it even changed colour slightly. Have you started or stopped taking any medication in that time?

I think that if it is a medical condition, pecanpies is on the right track with suggesting a thyroid function. I'd add a sed rate, ANA, liver function, etc. if possible. Your GP can send you for those tests.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:28 PM on August 16, 2011

Yeah, nthing having thyroid function checked. One of my sons had this happen to him at around the same age, and didn't have it checked until a bit later he was also dealing with depression, turns out cause of both was thyroid problems. See a GP as suggested above and have physical causes ruled out.
posted by batikrose at 2:06 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ditto thyroid. My mother was miserable for years—absolutely exhausted all the time—before she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Her doctor tried to shift blame to her for the delay in diagnosis (!) for not bringing up relevant symptoms. He asked, hadn't she noticed that her hair was thinning? And she said, of course she noticed; she thought it was just because she was getting older.
posted by BrashTech at 4:17 PM on August 16, 2011

In response to people suggesting it may be hereditary, my mother does in fact have hair very similar to mine. It is extremely thin and breaks easily. And I am only just now remembering her talking about having problems with her thyroid so it certainly seems that that is something I should check out with a GP. I've never had my thyroid function tested but it would explain certain aspects of my health, including my hair, so thanks for that suggestion
posted by Spamfactor at 5:19 PM on August 16, 2011

My wife's hair is (or I should say, was) similar — thin and would not grow long. Though she was skeptical, she eventually went to see Dr. Philip Kingsley, who advised her to eat more protein and also prescribed a regimen of drops for her scalp. Her hair is noticeably thicker now. He has clinics in London and New York City; if neither is convenient to you, you might call to see if he has a local recommendation.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:34 PM on August 16, 2011

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