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Alopecia Definition | Main Types, Causes And Treatment Guide

Alopecia

Alopecia Definition | Main Types, Causes And Treatment Guide

Alopecia is the medical term for acute hair loss and baldness. Despite alopecia being a very common disease among individuals worldwide, the technical term is not well-known and can provide images of a life-threatening illness. The truth is alopecia is just another name for hair loss and balding. It can be caused by a variety of physical and psychological factors and is found in both adults and children. Although more common in men, this condition is also experienced by women.

Main Types Of Alopecia

 

Androgenetic Alopecia

Traction Alopecia

While many individuals will view hair loss and baldness as a singular ailment, there are in fact several forms of hair loss. The most common type among women is traction alopecia. This form of hair loss and baldness is caused by a pulling of the scalp, which leads to a weakening of the hair root and follicle. This is more evident in women as women are more likely to undergo damaging hair treatments with the aim of attaining the latest hairstyle trend. Baldness among women is not necessarily caused by scalp damage, but may have a genetic element.

Alopecia areata

A second form of this ailment is alopecia areata, which refers to a patchy loss of hair. This is generally prevalent among older males and the hair loss is visible on both the head and body. Alopecia areata monolocularis means that the balding is visible in only one area; whereas alopecia totalis refers to hair loss in various areas. The monolocularis type can often progress to the experience of alopecia totalis.

Alopecia universalis

A third type of hair loss is known as alopecia universalis. This refers to a severe form of patchy balding and may result in the individual experiencing permanent hair loss on both the head and body. This will include eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair.

As you might imagine, for anyone experiencing alopecia, it is a distressing situation. Sticking out in society attracts gawkers, often who are negative, and make ignorant commentaries. There are many other people all over the world experiencing the same thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to deal with it for the rest of your life.

For a normal adult, hair is shed regularly at a rate of 20 to 100 strands per day. This should not cause any concern since a healthy body can grow back the lost hair. In a person with excessive hair loss, hair does not grow back as quickly as they are being shed. Thus, hair thinning and bald spots can be observed.

Alopecia is attributed to various causes. One or a combination of which may be a factor in extreme hair loss.

Alopecia Causes

 

It is best to start out your journey by understanding what is alopecia and why you are losing your hair.

Genetic factor

The leading reason for hair loss is simple genetics. In other words, genetics is to blame for men just barely out of their teens losing the hair from their scalp. The reason they lose their hair is now more deeply understood, which means more effective treatments are being devised.

It turns out the hair follicles are reactive to overproduction of testosterone rubbing against them. It causes shrinkage of the follicle, which forces the hair to fall out. Stop the body’s overproduction prevents hair loss.

Your genes play a huge role when it comes to hair thinning. If your father and grandfathers have had bald spots, the likelihood of experiencing the same thing is higher. While we can’t do anything about genes, there are different ways that you can do to help fight this condition and treat this as well (more on this later).

Hormones

Hormonal fluctuations may lead to body irregularities, which include abnormal weight and metabolism. Damaged cells do not get replaced as quickly as in a healthy person. To determine if hormonal imbalance occurs, a doctor may request for tests to be done. He or she will then prescribe hormonal replacements to replenish hormones in the body.

Medical Conditions and Medications

A medical condition may lead to another since every organ in the body somehow affects the rest of the organs. Sometimes, it is not directly the medical condition that causes the hair loss, but the medications used to treat the condition.

Some medications to treat arthritis, cancer depression, high blood pressure, heart problems, and for birth control may cause hair loss too. Even an overabundance of Vitamin A intake can cause hair loss too.

For example, in cancer patients, chemotherapy medications kill not just attack the rapidly growing cancer cells in the body, but also other normal rapidly growing cells. These include the patient’s hair follicles.

Allergies and Infections

Microorganisms can cause a number of skin conditions and can affect the rate of hair growth. Also, these affect the health of the hair follicles leading to brittle hair strands. The infection has to be addressed first prior to treating hair loss. Some over-the-counter anti-fungal solutions may be used to get rid of the microorganisms on the scalp.

Even infections, like ringworm, can lead to dry patches and temporary hair loss. Permanent hair loss may occur from lupus, sarcoidosis, and lichen planus.

Causes in Women

The most common cause of hair loss among females is continual hair pulling or scalp rubbing. This is generally seen among female adults who choose to engage in continuous dying of the hair and persistent hair styling. The common cause of hair loss among females and males (children and adult) is an emotional trauma or stress. The amount of stress experienced will determine the amount of hair loss and whether or not the hair loss is permanent.

Causes in Men

The most well known is the androgenetic form or genetic hair loss. This is most frequently seen among males from the age of 50 upwards and can be described as male pattern baldness. The hormones within the body will begin to alter and this can cause progressive hair loss if there is an insufficient level of testosterone or androsterone. Research has indicated that Caucasian men are more likely to develop progressive balding than any other ethnicity.

Alopecia Treatments

 

It is often thought that hair loss and baldness is irreversible and untreatable; however, this is not true. Many cases of hair loss have been treated using pharmaceutical medication such as topical minoxidil (5% for men, 2% for women) and oral finasteride (propecia) only for men.

As soon as the signs of alopecia are noticed, it is necessary to consult a medical professional in order to immediately address the condition and defining alopecia. Alopecia isn’t something that you should be ashamed of – it is a problem that has a solution. Take your time in finding which product works for you, or seek a professional’s advice to make sure you’re going the right route. Hair loss is not an all-hope is gone situation. Sometimes it just indicates some issues that need to be addressed. As a result, hair may grow back.

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Female Pattern Baldness | Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention

Female Pattern Baldness

What Is Female Pattern Baldness?

One of the most common types of hair loss among women is female pattern baldness. It is also referred to as female pattern alopecia or female pattern hair loss (FPHL). Millions of women across the globe are affected by this condition.

More than 40% of women who are aged 50 years and above show signs of baldness, and more than 50% do not reach the age of 80 with full hair. A medical condition called the telogen effluvium is often mistaken for FPHL as it manifests the same symptoms.

Female pattern hair loss differs to male pattern baldness. For women, the thinning of the hair occurs evenly on all areas of the scalp, while for men, balding begins on the frontal hairline which may later lead to balding of the top of the head.

 

What Are The Factors That Increase The Chance Of Developing Female Pattern Hair Loss?

 

1. Heredity

A person is likely to develop this condition if one or both of his parents have it. It can occur if the other members of the family or your close relatives particularly on the side of your mother, have recently developed hair loss.

2. Aging

FPHL can affect women of all ages, but it often occurs after menopause, and without prompt treatment, it can progress in severity on the next years of your life.

3. Androgen level changes

Androgen is a male hormone that is also released in a womanís body. It affects the different characteristics of the body like enhancing the strength of the muscles and bones, development of the sexual organs and controlling the growth of hair. Androgen may act on a certain stage of hair development. An increased level of androgen in the body can lead to hair loss.

What Is The Normal Life Cycle Of Hair?

The following are the three stages in the life cycle of hair:

1. Anagen

During this time, the length of the hair is determined. This can last up to six years.

2. Catagen

During this stage, the hair follicles detach themselves from the dermal papilla. It lasts for about 10 days.

3. Telogen

This is when the hair takes a rest and allows new hair to begin growing. This may take up to three months.

4. Exogen

This is the last stage of the cycle. The old hair falls off and allows the new hair to continue its growth. There are 50 to 100 hairs that fall out from your scalp daily.

What Are The Symptoms Of Female Pattern Baldness?

 

If you think you have the risk of developing female pattern alopecia, you have to look out for the different symptoms that may include the following:

1. Hair thinning that starts at the top or crown of the scalp and widens to the other areas of the scalp.

2. Unaffected front hairline

3. Progressive hair loss

When the symptoms mentioned above are experienced, you should see a doctor to ask for the appropriate treatment for your condition.

How Does Female Pattern Hair Loss Affect An Individual?

 

Hair loss among women is not just a cosmetic issue; it can also affect a person psychologically. Affected women have the tendency to develop a negative view on their body image and may withdraw themselves from other people. This will affect their activities on a daily basis. Hair loss can affect a personís self-esteem, and it can result to depression and introversion especially on an environment where youthful appearance and attractiveness are greatly valued.

If you are experiencing psychological distress from hair loss, you should remind yourself that this condition is not life-threatening and that it should not affect your daily life. Your family and friends will continue to like you even though you are losing your hair. You can also ask help from a psychologist for a talk therapy and prescription of antidepressant medications.

Instead of letting the condition put you down, focus on the positive aspects of your life and try reducing the emotional burdens as it may also help in reducing hair loss.

Who Should You Contact To Seek Help When You Notice The Symptoms?

 

When you notice the symptoms of hair loss, you should first contact your general practitioner. The GP will assess your condition and identify the symptoms which may confirm that you are experiencing female pattern hair loss. He will be the one to refer you to a dermatologist for further treatment. Some doctors perform a scalp biopsy for the confirmation of the diagnosis.

It is important to ask for the help of a specialist because they know the right kind of treatment for you. Do not rely on the expensive products that promise to treat your hair loss; they may cause more serious problems to your scalp and may worsen the condition.

How Do Health Care Providers Diagnose Female Pattern Baldness?

 

There are many ways of diagnosing female pattern alopecia. They include the following:

1. Physical assessment

During your visit, the health care provider will assess the appearance as well as the pattern of your hair loss. The degree of hair loss will be determined using the Ludwig Scale or the Savin Scale. The two methods are almost identical in nature; the only difference is that the latter measures both the overall thinning and the density.

 

ludwig scale female pattern baldness
LUDWIG SCALE

 

2. Medical interview

Upon interview, your doctor will ask if any of your family members or close relatives have developed hair loss recently. He will ask if you are experiencing the different signs of excessive androgen like abnormal growth of hair in the pubic area, belly button and face, sudden changes in the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the sexual organ and growth of acne.

3. Hair pull test

The doctor will need to pull a small amount of hair from the scalp to check if there is an excessive hair loss. If one to three hairs come out for each pull, this is considered as normal.

4. Laboratory procedures

Different procedures may be recommended by the health care provider to confirm the female pattern hair loss. They may include:

a. Scalp biopsy

This is a short procedure which is performed under local anesthesia. During a scalp biopsy, a small section of the scalp will be scraped and tested under the microscope to know the real cause of the hair loss. This is an expensive procedure and may cause scarring on the patientís scalp.

b. Blood tests

Complete blood count and other types of blood tests will be recommended to rule out skin diseases that may cause alopecia.

c. Hormonal tests

There are different tests that can help determine the levels of hormones in the body. The levels of DHEA, testosterone, prolactin, leutinizing hormone, follicular stimulating hormone and thyroid hormones should be determined as they may contribute to hair loss.

d. Densitometry

With this procedure, a handheld device known as densitometer will be used to magnify a hair shaft to be able to check its structure.

How Can Female Pattern Hair Loss Be Cured?

 

Some patients are only experiencing mild hair loss that intervention isnít that necessary. However, in most cases, patients may feel uncomfortable with their appearance so they would like to ask their doctor for some medications they may use to enhance their hair growth.

Unfortunately, female pattern alopecia is difficult to cure. There are affordable treatments though, but they cannot completely cure the condition. Some of these treatments include:

1. Minoxidil

This is the only medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States to be used for female pattern hair loss in (2% Minoxidil is for women). It is applied topically and can help in enhancing hair growth and stopping the hair loss. This medicine should be used on a long term basis, as stopping can cause the hair loss to start again.

Patients who are using Minoxidil may experience side effects including excessive hair growth in the different areas of the body like the cheeks and forehead.

2. Hormonal treatments

Oral medications like Flutamide, Spironolactone and Cyproterone may be prescribed to block the effects of testosterone in a womanís body. Hormonal treatments are usually done for at least six months before the benefits can be achieved. Once you have started with such treatments, you have to continue taking the medications.

3. Iron supplements

Some women are experiencing iron deficiency and this may be the root cause of their hair loss. Clinicians may test the levels of iron in the body and if anemia is confirmed, iron supplements will be recommended to reduce hair loss.

The only permanent treatment recommended by doctors is hair transplant. During the procedure, the doctor will remove tiny plugs of hair from areas of the body with thicker hair. The hair will be divided into hundreds of tiny grafts and will be placed in some areas that are balding. Within two to three weeks, the transplanted hair will start to shed and new hair will start to grow after three months. This procedure requires many sessions, and can be very expensive. However, it produces excellent results.

What Are The Other Solutions For Hair Loss?

 

If you really feel uncomfortable with your appearance, you can try the following techniques to hide your hair loss.

1. Change your hairstyle for thin hair

You can ask a hair stylist to provide you with a creative cut that will help make your thinning hair appear fuller.

2. Use a hairpiece or wig

Wigs have the ability to cover the whole scalp and the thinning hair. You can choose from the different styles and colors available in the market, but you should choose one which is similar to your natural hair. Hats and head scarfs may also help.

Can Hair Loss Be Prevented?

 

Female pattern alopecia is difficult to prevent, but there are some studies which suggest that psychological stress and disturbances can increase the levels of the hormones in the body, therefore leading to hair loss among women. Try doing stress-reducing activities like listening to relaxing music, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep each night.

Hair loss can affect women the same way it affects men. This condition can affect people of all ages, but older people are more prone to this condition than the younger ones. As hair loss can be devastating, patients must realize that this condition should not affect their everyday functioning. There are many solutions to help improve the appearance of a person suffering from female pattern hair loss. Several treatments out there can help minimize hair loss and hair transplant serves as a permanent solution to this problem.