It is caused due to various reasons such as autoimmune conditions, genetic factors, hormone changes, tissue scarring from injury, stress, etc. The primary symptom is a loss of hair. It may manifest as gradual thinning on top of the head, circular/patchy bald spots, sudden loss of hair, full body hair loss, or patches of scaling that spread over the scalp. Treatment includes medications, surgery, laser therapy, wigs, and hairpieces.
The main sign is a loss of hair. It may manifest as:
Gradual thinning of hair on the head
Circular/patchy hairless regions
Sudden loss of hair
Loosening of hair
Full body hair loss
Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp
More than 3 million cases per year are diagnosed in the United States.
Health care providers are usually able to diagnose alopecia fairly easily by examining symptoms. They might look at the degree of hair loss and examine hairs from affected areas under a microscope.
If after an initial clinical examination the health care provider has still not reached a conclusion, they can perform a skin biopsy. If they need to rule out other autoimmune diseases, then the health care provider can also perform a blood test.
There are different types of alopecia. Listed below are the main types of hair loss:
Alopecia Areata (AA) - is an autoimmune condition which causes patchy hair loss. It can result in a single bald patch or extensive patchy hair loss.
Alopecia Totalis (AT) - is a more advanced form of alopecia areata which results in total loss of all hair on the scalp.
Alopecia Universalis (AU) - is the most advanced form of alopecia areata which results in total loss of all hair on the body, including eyelashesand eyebrows.
Alopecia barbae - is alopecia areata that is localized to the beard area. It can be a single bald patch or more extensive hair loss across the whole of the beard area.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) - Also known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. It is a thinning of the hair to an almost transparent state, in both men and women. It is thought to be a hereditary form of hair loss and is the most common type of progressive hair loss.
Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) - also known as scarring alopecias, refers to a group of rare disorders which cause permanent hair loss.
Traction alopecia - is usually due to excessive pulling or tension on hair shafts as a result of certain hair styles. It is seen more often inwomen, particularly those of East Indian and Afro-Caribbean origin. Hair loss depends on the way the hair is being pulled. Prolonged traction alopecia can stop new hair follicles developing and lead to permanent hair loss.
Anagen Effluvium - this hair loss is generally caused by chemicals such as those used to treat cancer. Initially it causes patchy hair loss, which often then becomes total hair loss. The good news is that when you stop using these chemicals the hair normally grows back (usually about 6 months later). Other drugs also can cause hair loss. Many medicines used to treat even common diseases can cause hair loss.
Telogen Effluvium - A form of hair loss where more than normal amounts of hair fall out. There is a general 'thinning' of the hair. Unlike some other hair and scalp conditions, it is temporary and the hair growth usually recovers.
The following factors can cause hair loss:
Hereditary- family history of alopecia increases the risk
Hormonal changes- imbalances caused by pregnancy or menopause could lead to hair loss
Medical conditions such as scalp infections, lichen planus, lupus, sarcoidosis, hair- pulling disorder, an autoimmune disorder
Medications such as cancer drugs, intake of Vitamin A
Radiation therapy to the head
Stressful experiences such as sudden weight loss, surgery, high fever, loss of a loved one- trigger hair loss
Certain hairstyles that pull hair tightly
Beauty treatments that could cause inflammation of the hair follicle