How are hair loss conditions diagnosed?

If you notice your hair is starting to thin or fall out, you may immediately head online to seek out the cause and to look for some answers. Whilst the online community can be helpful when it comes to dealing with the emotional effects of hair loss, you really need to see a doctor first to get a formal diagnosis.

On visiting your GP, you are likely to be asked about:

• Diet
• Stress
• Hormonal changes (i.e. pregnancy or the menopause)
• Illness or major surgery
• Hair care and mistreatment (i.e. excessive dyeing or straightening)

Unless your hair loss condition is straightforward, you are then likely to be referred to a specialist, such as a dermatologist or trichologist for diagnosis. The specialist may perform a number of tests to determine what is causing your hair to full out, so you can expect any of the following:

The pull test – this is where groups of hairs on different areas of the scalp are gently pulled to see if they loosen.

The pluck test – this is where hair is pulled out by the roots for further examination

Daily hair count – if the pull test is negative (less than three hairs fall out), the patient is asked to track and collect the number of hairs that fall out a day

Scalp biopsy – a tiny sample of hair around the bald or thinning patch is taken for analysis