Alopecia is the term for hair loss. This may be either due to hormones, diseases, genetics, or age. It affects both men and women anytime during life. Surprisingly, over 40 percent of hair loss sufferers are women. Alopecia has led to an industry that nets billions of dollars in hair replacement treatments and procedures.
What Is Alopecia?
The name alopecia is a blanket term for many types of hair loss. These include:
Male Pattern Baldness
Female Pattern Baldness
Alopecia is hair loss from not only the head, but all over the body. This condition can include; the arms, legs, genital areas, armpits, and chest. Humans have up to 150,000 hairs on their head and normally lose about 100 hairs per day. The body regenerates about the same amount of hair lost each day and maintains a balance. With alopecia, the body does not reproduce the amount of hair lost and the hair begins to thin.
The main symptom of alopecia is hair loss. There are a host of other symptoms that are linked to the actual cause and type including:
Male Pattern Baldness (Androgenic Alopecia). Male pattern baldness starts with a receding hairline in the front of the head just above the forehead. The hair ceases growth and forms a “U” around the sides and the crown is completely bald.
Female Pattern Baldness. In female pattern baldness, the hair thins out on the top of the head at the crown and the front of the hairline does not recede. Women usually do not completely lose their hair like men, but the thinning can be very severe.
Alopecia Areata. The hair tends to fall out in round patches all over the head. Hair is lost all over the body and eventually all body hair falls out.
Scarring Alopecia. Starts out with hair falling out in small patches. There are rough edges where the hair is lost. It is accompanied by other symptoms including; pain, burning and itching. Some people experience fluid filled blisters at the site of hair loss.
Telogen Effluvium. Hair just becomes noticeably thin all over the scalp. Pieces that do fall out have a small keratin bulb on the end of the hair. The hairline does not recede and the head never goes completely bald.
Anagen Effluvium. Unlike most hair loss of mature fully-grown hairs, anagen effluvium is the loss of new hair growth. This type is mostly due to chemotherapy, but other conditions can cause it. The hair falls out very rapidly and balding is very quick. Hair does grow back with this type.
The cause of alopecia depends on the type. The causes fall into only a few categories and are listed below:
Androgenic Alopecia. Male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness is usually caused by imbalanced hormone levels and family history (genetics).
Alopecia Areata. This type is caused by an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
Scarring Alopecia. Scarring alopecia is caused by inflammation at the site of the hair follicle. This can be due to infection or even autoimmune i.e. lupus. The inflammation causes the hair follicle to “die off” and damage can be permanent.
Anagen Effluvium. The main cause for this type of hair loss is very straightforward because it occurs within days to weeks of chemotherapy treatments, poisoning, or disease flares.
Telogen Effluvium. This type is caused by many different things that put stress on the body including; acute illness with fever, surgery, weight loss, anemia, thyroid disease, hormonal changes and physical trauma. Hair loss is usually reversed after recovery.
Risk factors for hair loss depend on the type that you have and include; family history of baldness, health history, recent medication use, age, and hormonal status.
Alopecia is diagnosed with a thorough examination and medical history, including recent medication history. If the cause is due to inflammation, the doctor may take a scalp scraping to determine the cause. Usually, just looking at the pattern of hair loss along with any history can provide a good clue.
There are billions of dollars spent each year on hair loss treatment. Topical and restorative treatments include:
A topical medication that is applied to the scalp. It can be purchased over-the-counter. It does more to prevent future hair loss and helps a little with hair regrowth.
An oral prescription drug for male pattern baldness. Taken once daily, it may help to regrow hair and helps hair already present stay in. This drug should not be used by pregnant women due to the risk of birth defects. It is currently only FDA approved for men.
Is a topical prostaglandin that is approved for hair loss anywhere on the body other than the scalp. It is typically used for eyelash loss.
Hair fibers come in powder form and can be sprinkled onto areas of hair loss to cover bald spots. They are available over-the-counter and only for short-term use.
Hairs are taken from one part of the head and transplanted into another. These procedures can be costly at $1,000 to $20,000 depending on how much hair needs to be restored.
There are a few all-natural home remedies that you can try at home for hair loss. While not a cure, they can help the body get what it needs to thicken hair and stimulate follicles. These include:
A B vitamin that is known to nourish the hair.
Zinc and Copper
May help with autoimmune hair loss.
May increase hair growth.
Helps prevent hair from breaking.
Rubbed on the scalp may increase circulation to the scalp area.
Hair loss that is due to genetic causes cannot be prevented, but can be slowed if treated early on. Any other causes may be reversible with treatment of the underlying cause such as hormones (thyroid), autoimmune disease (lupus), and medications. For male pattern baldness, Rogaine has shown to be very successful if it is used in the first five years of the balding phase.
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