After reviewing 40 years of medical literature. Cleveland Clinic researchers think they have discovered an often overlooked cause of baldness—iron deficiency.

We believe that iron deficiency may be related to many forms of hair loss and that people may need higher levels of iron stores than previously thought to regrow hair," says Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, head of clinical research in the department of dermatology, who headed the data review. “If doctors can fully understand the relationship between iron deficiency and hair loss, then they can help people regrow hair more effectively."

However, she and others are still scratching their heads on specific recommendations.

Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency. It can be caused by in-adequate dietary intake of iron, excessive menstrual bleeding, and other forms of blood loss. Treatment includes adequate dietary intake of iron and, when appropriate, iron supplements. However, use of supplements, especially in middle age and beyond, should be done under a doctor's supervision.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic routinely screen for iron deficiency in patients with hair loss. If iron deficiency is detected and treated in the early stages, patients may be able to grow hair more effectively, they say.

Hair-Raising Discovery!

Scientists have identified two mutations in a gene that lead to some cases of trichotillomania, or compulsive hair-pulling. Between 3% and 5% of Americans suffer from this condition, now thought to be caused by faulty connections between neurons—and not by negative life experiences.

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