7 Things Body Hair Says About Our Health

It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her hair. But when body hair changes without our permission? Then it’s our imperative to check it out. Because hair is a signifier—its presence, its gain, or its loss—hair is always trying to tell us something.

Here’s what your hair can reveal about you:

1. Your genetic inheritance
Genetics could dictate how much body hair you have. The amount of hair that blankets your body can depend on your ethnicity. The fine hairs that cover the body are called vellus.

2. You might have a tumor
If hirsutism comes on very suddenly and dramatically—”Say, over a period of six months, and your testosterone levels are very high, you may have a tumor that is releasing male hormones and changing the hormone profile in your body to such as extent that you’re growing hair and fast. In these cases, we look for a tumor of the adrenal gland or ovary—both are possibilities.

3. Your ovaries may need checking
If hirsutism is accompanied by irregular periods, it’s most likely a systemic problem. The most common cause is polycystic ovary syndrome, which is characterized by enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid, called follicles. The second most likely cause is obesity, which can also accompany polycystic ovary syndrome.

4. You might be iron deficient or have an underactive thyroid
Everyone has a hair cycle. Some people tend to naturally shed hair in the spring and fall; others in the summer and winter. But diffuse hair loss—noticeable hair loss on your body and your head can indicate an iron deficiency or an underactive thyroid. Vegetarians and women with heavy periods can experiences this type of hair loss.

5. You could have an autoimmune problem
It’s rare, but the immune system can turn on your hair follicles. The result can be losing your hair in odd, circular patches; losing all your hair on your scalp; or losing all your hair on your head and body, including your eyebrows and eyelashes. These conditions are typically treated with systemic steroids, and the hair can grow back—though the cure doesn’t always last.

6. Your hormones are out of balance
Male-pattern hair growth or loss could signal shifting hormone levels. A sudden increase in hair growth or loss in women is often caused by an imbalance of male hormones, which are naturally present in both men and women in differing amounts.

7. Your bad habits
Some drugs leave detectable traces in your hair for years—even a century. Trace amounts of morphine were found in a lock of hair that had been snipped from celebrated English poet John Keats’ head 165 years after his death. The ode master had relied on morphine for pain relief while he was dying of tuberculosis.

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