This is one of those questions that really can’t be answered.
That’s because it’s all a case of “it depends…”.
How long does it take to become completely bald?
The standard answer you’ll find on this one usually suggests that it’s anywhere between 5 – 25 years after the first symptoms appear.
Inevitably though, that involves some pretty vast generalisations. For a start, it depends upon when the symptoms are first noticed and recorded. Some people see a few hairs in the hairbrush and think it’s a symptom of significant hair loss, when it may be no such thing.
Then there is the definition of completely bald. Some people describe someone with thinning hair or just a thinning crown as being “bald” when they’re not.
A better measure then is how long can it take from the first symptoms, to get to a stage where you’re starting to notice that your hair really is thinning and/or hairline receding. The answer there might be a lot less than 5 years!
Faster hair loss
There are circumstances though where you may become bald (or suffer very significant hair loss) in a very much shorter time period.
Chemotherapy is one widely-known example of that. On the plus side, such effects are often temporary and the hair may recover.
There is also a range of illnesses and surgical procedures, which may adversely affect the hormonal balance of your body. Examples there might include various hormone treatments, some liver diseases, surgeries such as those involving the prostate or ovaries and so on. In all those cases you might experience a very rapid loss of hair which might become total.
Again, some of these effects may be temporary and the hair will re-grow but in other cases, it may be a more permanent problem if left untreated.
Then there are conditions which are typically less serious in terms of overall health but which may have an equally dramatic effect on the hair. Examples might include:
- Alopecia – here cases of zero to total baldness have been reported in as little as 3 months;
- fungal infections. As the name suggests, such things may be highly infectious and there are too many types to list them all here, including those that can be picked up from dogs, cats and guinea pigs. These tend to lead to bald patches but if left untreated, total baldness may result. The good news is that, by and large, these conditions are temporary and hair may regrow;
- other infections. If your immune system is weakened by medication or some form of virus/bacterium, you may suffer radical and relatively sudden hair drop;
- although many women report a spurt in hair growth and thickness during pregnancy, for some, the opposite can be true and substantial hair loss might be experienced. That’s often associated with an underlying condition such as PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) or one of several potential auto-immune problems that can be triggered by pregnancy. Total baldness here is rare but the loss may be dramatic and over a short time period – though it typically isn’t permanent.
Can anything be done to prevent baldness?
In many cases, yes.
Obviously, a lot will depend on the cause and how quickly the real culprit is identified. The sooner that happens, the sooner a hair care specialist and/or your doctor will be able to commence remedial treatments.
The key message here is not to self-diagnose. If you start experiencing unusual hair loss, consult an expert or your doctor sooner rather than later.