Hair Loss Affects More Than Half of Postmenopausal Women

Heidi Splete

March 08, 2022

Female-pattern hair loss (FPHL) was identified in 52% of postmenopausal women, and 4% of these cases involved extensive baldness, based on data from 178 individuals.

FPHL can develop at any time from teenage years through and beyond menopause, wrote Sukanya Chaikittisilpa, MD, of Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, and colleagues.

The cause of FPHL remains uncertain, but the presence of estrogen receptors in hair follicles suggests that the hormone changes of menopause may affect hair growth, the researchers said.

In a study published in Menopause, the researchers evaluated 178 postmenopausal women aged 50-65 years for FPHL. FPLH was determined based on photographs and on measures of hormone levels, hair density, and hair diameter.

The overall prevalence of FPHL was 52.2%. The hair loss was divided into three categories indicating mild, moderate, and severe (Ludwig grades I, II, and III) with prevalence of 73.2%, 22.6%, and 4.3%, respectively. The prevalence of FPHL also increased with age and time since menopause. In a simple logistic regression analysis, age 56 years and older and more than 6 years since menopause were significantly associated with FPHL (odds ratios, 3.41 and 1.98, respectively).

However, after adjustment for multiple variables, only a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or higher also was associated with increased prevalence of FPHL (adjusted OR, 2.65).

A total of 60% of the study participants met criteria for low self-esteem, including all the women in the severe hair loss category.

“The postmenopausal women with FPHL in our cohort had lower total hair density, terminal hair density, hair thickness, hair unit density, and average hair per unit than those with normal hair patterns,” although vellus hair density was higher in women with FPHL, the researchers wrote in their discussion of the findings. This distinction may be caused in part by the shortened hair cycle and reduced anagen phase of velluslike follicles, they said.

The study findings were limited by several factors, including the cross-sectional design and the inclusion of only women from a single menopause clinic, which may not reflect FPHL in the general population, as well as the reliance on patients’ recall, the researchers noted. Another limitation was the inability to assess postmenopausal hormone levels, they added.

However, “This study may be the first FPHL study conducted in a menopause clinic that targeted only healthy postmenopausal women,” they wrote. More research is needed to determine the potential role of estrogen and testosterone on FPHL in postmenopausal women, and whether a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome has an effect, they said. Meanwhile, current study results may help clinicians and patients determine the most appropriate menopausal hormone therapies for postmenopausal women with FPHL, they concluded.

Consider lifestyle and self-esteem issues

The current study is important at this time because a larger proportion of women are either reaching menopause or are menopausal, said Constance Bohon, MD, a gynecologist in private practice in Washington, in an interview.

“Whatever we in the medical community can do to help women transition into the menopausal years with the least anxiety is important,” including helping women feel comfortable about their appearance, she said.

“For women in the peri- and postmenopausal years, hair loss is a relatively common concern,” Bohon said. However, in the current study, “I was surprised that it was associated with low self-esteem and obesity,” she noted. “For these women, it would be interesting to know whether they also had concerns about the appearance of their bodies, or just their hair loss,” she said. The question is whether the hair loss in and of itself caused low self-esteem in the study population, or whether it exacerbated their already poor self-assessment, Bohon said. “Another consideration is that perhaps these women were already feeling the effects of aging and were trying to change their appearance by using hair dyes, and now they find themselves losing hair as well,” she noted.

The takeaway message for clinicians is that discussions with perimenopausal and postmenopausal women should include the topic of hair loss along with hot flashes and night sweats, said Bohon.

Women who are experiencing hair loss or concerned about the possibility of hair loss should ask their doctors about possible interventions that may mitigate or prevent further hair loss, she said.

As for additional research, “the most important issue is to determine the factors that are associated with hair loss in the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years,” Bohon said. Research questions should include impact of dyeing or straightening hair on the likelihood of hair loss, and whether women with more severe hot flashes/night sweats and/or sleeplessness have more hair loss than women who do not experience any of the symptoms as they go through menopause, she emphasized.

Other considerations are whether certain diets or foods are more common among women who have more hair loss, and whether weight loss into a normal range or weight gain into a body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2 affects hair loss, said Bohon. Also, don’t discount the impact of stress, and whether women who have lost hair identify certain stressful times that preceded their hair loss, as well as what medications could be associated with hair loss, and whether hormone therapy might prevent hair loss, she said.

The study was supported by the Ratchadapiseksompotch Fund, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. Bohon had no financial conflicts to disclose and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Ob.Gyn. News.

This story originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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