Alopecia, more commonly known as hair loss, affects both men and women. While it can be caused by many factors, the predominant cause is genetics. Dermatologists are trained to diagnose and treat hair loss.
1. Alopecia or hair loss affects almost everyone
We form our hair follicles during the fetal growth stage. Most people experience some level of hair loss in the later stages of their lives. Hair loss can occur in men, women, and children. It can happen to people of any skin color or type of hair. Hair loss can be an isolated problem or associated with another disease or condition. It can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Regardless of the cause or type, hair loss can be psychologically distressing, leading to decreased quality of life and possibly other stress-related medical disorders. This stress can in turn further exacerbate hair loss.
2. Alopecia can be caused by a variety of factors
Most causes of hair loss can be narrowed down to genetics and age. However, there could be other factors such as poor nutrition, stress, or an underlying medical condition. Sometimes a traumatic injury, surgery, or radiation, could cause hair loss. Repetitive physical stress on the hair due to the use of curlers, hot rollers or harsh perms could result in hair loss as well.
3. There are various types of alopecia
Due to different underlying causes and clinical characteristics, there are many types of alopecia. The most common types include:
Androgenic Alopecia in Males or Male Pattern Hair Loss
By far the most common type of hair loss, it is characterized by the thinning of hair over a large area of the scalp. It occurs in adult males and typically presents in the form of a receding hairline or an increased crown. Male pattern hair loss is caused due to a combination of hormones known as androgens and an overall genetic predisposition.
Androgenic Alopecia in Females or Female Pattern Hair Loss
Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is a distinctive form of hair loss that occurs in women with androgenic alopecia. Many women are affected by FPHL. Around 40% of women by the age of 50 show signs of hair loss. Less than 45% of women reach the age of 80 with a full head of hair. Female pattern hair loss presents quite differently from the more recognizable male pattern hair loss, which usually begins with a receding front hairline that progresses to a bald patch on top of the head. It is very uncommon for women to bald the same way men do, the male pattern unless there is excessive production of androgens in the body.
Alopecia Areata or Autoimmune Alopecia
Characterized by one or more round bald patches that appear suddenly, most often on the scalp, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder. While the exact mechanism is not understood yet, your immune system attacks hair follicles causing them to be rejected. Alopecia areata can affect males and females at any age and of any ethnicity. It starts in childhood in about 50%, and before the age of 40 years in 80%. The risk of developing it in your life is approximately 1-2%.
Our hair is constantly going through different stages of growth, known as the hair growth cycle. In a healthy individual, about 85% of the hair follicles are actively growing hair (anagen hair) and about 15% are resting hair (telogen hair). A new anagen hair begins to grow under the resting telogen hair and pushes it out. It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day as a result of this hair cycle. However, if there is a shock to the system, up to 70% of the anagen hair can be transformed into telogen hair, essentially reversing the typical ratio. This shock can be caused by pregnancy, stress, illness, nutrition, injury, medical procedures, hormone disorders, or medications. Hair loss caused due to these factors is known as telogen effluvium.
This form of hair loss is typically caused by hair care products and treatments or tension applied to the hair during styling.
A dermatologist can examine your hair loss to diagnose its specific type and develop a treatment plan for it.
4. Preventing hair loss is difficult
Most types of hair loss cannot be actively prevented. However, it is recommended to avoid injury to the hair shaft by following basic healthy hair habits
Drying hair naturally or with the hairdryer on a cool setting
Minimizing chemical treatments
Avoiding hairstyles that may cause traction injury, such as braids and ponytails
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet.
5. Various treatment options are available
Treatment for hair loss varies depending on the cause but can include:
Topical or injectable corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
Your dermatologist is best equipped to recommend the appropriate course of treatment.