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Understanding Alopecia

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical umbrella term for hair-loss. It covers a range of hair-loss groups which all have varying causes and outcomes. Please consult at our hair loss partner clinic to identify the correct cause of your hair loss.

Alopecia can happen to anyone; young or old, male or female. People with alopecia do not experience pain or sickness and the disease does not affect your life span. It is not contagious and the amount of hair-loss varies from person to person.

The Top Five Types of Hair Loss

  1. Male and Female-Pattern Baldness

Pattern baldness affects both men and women alike and is the number one culprit for hair-loss in the world. In men, it typically starts with a receding hairline and progresses to visible thinning on the crown and the temples. Although it is rare for male-pattern baldness to result in complete baldness of the scalp, it does often leave the man with little to no hair on the top of the head often causing him to fashion a comb-over hairstyle or wear a toupee.

Male-pattern baldness is believed to be genetic and thus is passed down through the family, generation to generation. The male hormone testosterone is commonly associated with baldness as it causes the hair follicles to shrink. This in turn affects women when they experience menopause because testosterone becomes the more prominent hormone.

Female-pattern baldness is lesser known and researched, however women tend to experience a general thinning of the hair as they mature.

  1. Telogen effluvium

 One of the most common kinds of alopecia, telogen effluvium affects many of us by causing a general pervasive thinning of the scalp hair.

The major reasons why telogen effluvium occurs can be traced to hormonal alterations, excessive emotional or physical stress, illness, an unhealthy diet or a reaction to a medication. Once you pinpoint the source of this type of alopecia, you can usually stop it pretty quickly and hair will begin to grow back over a period of a few months.

  1. Alopecia Areata.

Alopcia areata can strike at any age, but it is best known for affecting young people and teens. A person suffering this type of hair-loss will experience areas of baldness on the scalp and/or other areas of the body. The majority of people who are affected by alopecia areata will regrow their missing hair within a few months, however some sufferers will endure harsher hair-loss.

Complete baldness of the scalp (alopecia totalis) and total hair-loss of the entire body (alopecia universalis) are more severe cases of alopecia areata, and hair regrowth time can vary vastly, if at all.

It is said that alopecia areata is a genetic disorder as it can affect people who have a family history of it. However, it is mainly caused by a weakness in the immune system, which makes ill people susceptible to the disorder.

  1. Cicatricial alopecia.

This type of hair-loss occurs when the hair follicles are destroyed and replaced with scar tissue, resulting in permanent hair-loss. It is typically triggered by another health condition such as scleroderma, lichen planus or discoid lupus, to name a few.

Cicatricial alopecia – or scarring alopecia – can happen to both men and women equally, but is less likely in youngsters.

  1. Anagen effluvium.

The top reason for anagen effluvium to happen is through cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy can cause hair-loss across the whole body in some (but not all) people undergoing treatment.

In the majority of cases, most patients who experience hair-loss during treatment will witness hair re-growth once the therapy has ended.

How to Treat Alopecia.

There are various medications, solutions, vitamins and supplements on the market these days to stop hair-loss and promote re-growth. The most common and successful treatment is Minoxidil; an over-the-counter medication used to treat both male and female-pattern balding. Although minoxidil works for many – it doesn’t work for everyone and this treatment can be costly.

Furthermore, there are a number of surgeries including hair implants or steroid injections to stimulate the scalp and promote hair re-growth. However, it is strongly advised to consult your doctor about the numerous treatment plans available to you.

Top Tips for Living with Alopecia.

  • Educate yourself about alopecia.
  • Talk to others who are dealing with alopecia.
  • Build self-confidence by focussing on other areas of yourself- not just your lack of hair.

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