Alopecia

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is hair loss which can be due to a variety of causes.  Hormonal abnormalities, genetics, systemic illness, drugs, psychological abnormalities, diet, trauma, infections, and structural hair defects may all cause hair loss. 

Hair loss may follow a pattern, or can be general.  It may involve only the hair on your scalp, or also on other parts of the body.  Autoimmune Alopecia is hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, where hair growth begins. The most common form is Alopecia Areata.  The damage to the follicle is usually not permanent. Experts do not know why the immune system attacks the follicles. Alopecia areata is most common in people younger than 20, but children and adults of any age may be affected. Women and men are affected equally.

 

Types of Alopecia

 

  • Androgenic Alopecia is genetic and often referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss. It’s the most common type of hair loss and is caused when the enzymes in the body turn testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.

 

  • Alopecia Areata usually presents itself as patchy hair loss on the scalp. It’s an autoimmune disorder which causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy hair follicles. It’s thought to be triggered by stress (either physical or emotional).  Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis are the most extreme types of alopecia areata, causing the entire scalp (Totalis) or entire body (Universalis) to lose hair.

 

  • Ciatricial Alopecia happens when hair follicles are destroyed and replaced by scar tissue.

 

  • Traction Alopecia is usually cased by actions than put excessive tension on hair. Braiding and tight ponytails are prime causes. 

 

About alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is usually first noticed when totally smooth, round hairless patches appear on the scalp. In some cases the hair may become thinner without noticeable patches of baldness. In rare cases, complete loss of scalp hair and body hair occurs. The hair loss may come and go, and the hair may grow back in 6 months to a year. Regrowth may occur in one area but then another area may become affected.  Regrowth may be the same color and texture as the rest of the hair or it have a finer texture and be grey or white.

 

About 10% of people with this condition never re-grow hair. You are more likely to have permanent hair loss if you:

  • Have a family history of the condition

  • Have the condition at a young age (before puberty) or for longer than 1 year

  • Have another autoimmune disease

  • Are prone to allergies (atopy)

  • Have extensive hair loss

  • Have abnormal color, shape, texture, or thickness of the fingernails or toenails

 

In some people with alopecia areata, the fingernails and toenails become pitted-they look as if a pin had made many tiny dents in them. They may also look like sandpaper.

 

Treatment

Treatments for alopecia areata may help improve symptoms but it cannot be cured.  These involve medications to influence the immune system, or to attempt to change the immune response, “distracting” the immune cells from attacking the hair follicles.

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