Although hair loss is commonly associated with the head, it does not just occur on the scalp. Alopecia, the medical term for gradual hair loss, can occur on any part of the body as well. Hair loss can be disconcerting for cosmetic reasons, but it can also signal that something is wrong inside the body. Conditions that result in body hair loss can usually be remedied, but medical or psychological treatment may be required.
Experts at the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explain that a condition called telogen effluvium can result in loss of body and head hair. Telogen effluvium occurs when the body experiences some type of physical or emotional shock such as a death in the family, severe illness, nutritional deficiency, surgery or sudden weight loss. The shock causes the hair roots to prematurely go into the resting stage. As a result, body hair falls out at the root. This condition is usually temporary. Hair typically regrows after the stressful situation is alleviated, but it can take several months.
When the body is exposed to certain drugs or chemicals, hair loss may occur. According to the Merck website, chemotherapy medications, radiation, mercury, boric acid and thallium can all interrupt the anagen, or growing phase, of hair. As a result, body and head hair is lost.
Hormonal fluctuations and imbalances can result in temporary body hair loss. The Mayo Clinic states that pregnancy, menopause, thyroid problems, childbirth or discontinuing birth control medications are all common hormone fluctuation triggers. Hair loss can be noticed as late as three months after the hormonal fluctuation—and it can take that long to regrow. Hair loss should discontinue once the hormonal imbalance is corrected.
A disorder called, trichotillomania, or hair pulling, is a subtle condition that may initially go unnoticed. The Trichotillomania Learning Center says that this impulse control disorder causes people to pull hair from anywhere on the body, including the eyelashes, arms, pubic area, legs, chest and eyebrows. The condition resembles an addiction, habit or even obsessive-compulsive disorder. For some, the impulse is mild and can be controlled with extra concentration and awareness. Others may require counseling, medications or group therapy.