Alopecia refers to excessive hair loss from the head or anywhere on the body, and there are several conditions that can cause this to happen. If you’re experiencing unusual hair loss, contact Dr. Lina Naga and Dr. Terrence Keaney of SkinDC in Washington DC, for an appointment to diagnose possible causes behind your condition.
What are the different types of alopecia?
One type of hair loss, called alopecia areata, stems from an autoimmune disorder and results in circular areas of hair loss on the face and scalp and occasionally other parts of the body. Affecting nearly 7 million Americans, it may affect any ethnic group, either gender, as well as people of all ages. With this form of alopecia, the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles and dramatically slows or stops hair production. The follicles themselves remain viable, and regrowth of hair is common.
Androgenetic, or pattern alopecia, is most often a result of multiple factors including hormones, age and genetics. Male pattern baldness, also called male pattern alopecia, usually results in hair thinning and eventual hair loss at the frontal hairline, accentuated at the temporal peaks, as well as on the vertex or crown of the scalp. Women can also experience pattern alopecia, but it affects the scalp differently. Women with pattern alopecia will often have hair thinning on the frontal scalp, but preserve the location of their frontal hairline. Androgenetic alopecia is a more permanent form of hair loss, however there are some medications as well as in-office treatments that can slow hair loss and encourage new growth.
Are there other types of hair loss?
Yes. Scarring alopecia covers a range of rare conditions where hair follicles are destroyed and replaced by scar tissue. Telogen effluvium is a form of hair thinning across the whole scalp that can occur in response to stressors on the body or systemic disorders and low nutrient states. Hair follicles enter a resting phase during which hairs are shed. Anagen effluvium has a quick onset, usually associated with chemotherapy patients, as the hair follicles are shocked by the chemotherapy toxins.
Are there treatments for hair loss?
There are several treatments for the different forms of hair loss. Some conditions are more easily treatable than others, and results depend largely on underlying diagnosis. Alopecia areata treatments target the immune system to disrupt its attack on the hair follicles. Male or female pattern alopecia need not be treated if the patient is comfortable with their appearance. If treatment is desired, medications such as minoxidil and finasteride can slow hair loss and, in some cases, encourage regrowth. These drugs may work well with telogen effluvium, though it may also reverse itself naturally. Anagen effluvium due to chemotherapy reverses, sometimes within a month of the end of treatment. If hair loss is permanent, hair transplantationis an option.