Hair Loss - Alopecia
5 May 2017
- What is Alopecia?
- What is Male and Female Pattern Baldness?
- What is Alopecia Areata?
- What are the Causes of Alopecia Areata?
- Which Conditions Can Cause Scarring Alopecia?
- What is Anagen Effluvium?
- What is Telpgem Effluvium?
- How is Hair Loss Treated?
What is Alopecia?
Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss. There are various forms of hair loss with different symptoms and causes. Some of the more common types of hair loss include;
• Male and female pattern baldness
• Alopecia areata
• Scarring alopecia
• Anagen effluvium
• Telogen effluvium
If you have been subjected to hair loss or diagnosed and feel treatment could help then
What is Male and Female Pattern Baldness?
Male-pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss, affecting around half of all males over 50 years of age. It often begins in their late twenties or early thirties with the majority of men being subjected to some extent of hair loss by their late thirties. This commonly ensues a pattern of a receding hairline, superseded by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples, leaving a horseshoe shape around the back and sides of the head.
On occasions, it can advance to complete baldness, although this is rare. Male-pattern baldness is hereditary as it tends to run through generations. It's thought to be provoked by oversensitive hair follicles, associated with having excessiveness of a male hormone. But it isn’t just men who can suffer from this condition as it can sometimes affect women known as female-pattern baldness. With female-pattern baldness, hair usually only thins on top of the head and is less severe than with men. It's not certain if female-pattern baldness is hereditary and the causes are not as well researched. However, it does tend to be more noticeable in women post-menopause (when a woman's periods stop at around age 52), maybe due to having fewer female hormones at this point in their lives.
What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata produces patches of baldness about the size of a large coin. They usually appear on the scalp but can occur anywhere on the body. It can occur at any age, but mostly affects teenagers and young adults. In most cases of Alopecia Areata, hair will grow back in a few months. At first, hair may grow back fine and white, but over time it should thicken and regain its normal colour.
Some people go on to develop a more severe form of hair loss, such as:
• Alopecia totalis (no scalp hair)
• Alopecia Universalis (no hair on the scalp and body)
What are the Causes of Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata is caused by a problem with the immune system (the body's natural defence against infection and illness). It's more common among people with other autoimmune conditions, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), diabetes or Down's syndrome. It's also believed some people's genes make them more susceptible to alopecia areata, as one in five people with the condition have a family history of the condition.
Alopecia areata can occur at any age, although it's more common in people aged 15-29. It affects one or two people in every 1,000 in the UK. Scarring Alopecia Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia, is usually caused by complications of another condition. In this type of alopecia, the hair follicle (the small hole in your skin that an individual hair grows out of) is completely destroyed. This means your hair won't grow back. Depending on the condition, the skin where the hair has fallen out is likely to be affected in some way.
Which Conditions Can Cause Scarring Alopecia?
Conditions which can cause scarring alopecia include:
• Scleroderma – a condition affecting the body's connective (supporting) tissues, resulting in hard, puffy and itchy skin
• Lichen planus – an itchy rash affecting many areas of the body
• Discoid lupus – a mild form of lupus affecting the skin, causing scaly marks and hair loss
• Folliculitis decal vans – a rare form of alopecia that most commonly affects men, causing baldness and scarring of the affected areas
• frontal fibrosing alopecia – a type of alopecia that affects post-menopausal women where the hair follicles are damaged, and the hair falls out and is unable to grow back Scarring alopecia occurs in both males and females but is less common in children than adults. It accounts for about 7% of hair loss cases.
What is Anagen Effluvium?
Anagen effluvium is widespread hair loss that can affect your scalp, face and body.
One of the most common causes of this type of hair loss is the cancer treatment chemotherapy. In some cases, other cancer treatments – including immunotherapy and radiotherapy – may also cause hair loss. The hair loss is usually noticeable within a few weeks of starting treatment. However, not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss and sometimes the hair loss is so small it's hardly noticeable. It may be possible to reduce hair loss from chemotherapy by wearing a special cap that keeps the scalp cool. However, scalp cooling is not always effective and not widely available.
In most cases, hair loss in anagen effluvium is temporary. Your hair should start to grow back a few months after chemotherapy has stopped.
What is Telpgem Effluvium?
Telogen effluvium Telogen effluvium is a common type of alopecia where there is widespread thinning of the hair, rather than specific bald patches.
Your hair may feel thinner, but you're unlikely to lose it all and your other body hair isn't usually affected. Telogen effluvium can be caused by your body reacting to;
• Hormonal changes, such as those that take place when a woman is pregnant
• Intense emotional stress
• Intense physical stress, such as childbirth
• A short-term illness, such as a severe infection or an operation
• A long-term illness, such as cancer or liver disease
• Changes in your diet, such as crash dieting
• some medications, such as anticoagulants (medicines that reduce the ability of your blood to clot) or beta-blockers (used to treat a number of conditions, such as high blood pressure) In most cases of telogen effluvium, your hair will stop falling out and start to grow back within six months.
How is Hair Loss Treated?
More common types of hair loss, such as male-pattern baldness, don't need treatment because they're a natural part of ageing and don't pose a risk to your health. However, any type of hair loss can be distressing, so you should see your GP if you're worried about it. Your GP should be able to diagnose your type of hair loss by examining your hair. They can also discuss possible treatments with you so it's advisable to visit your GP before trying a private consultant dermatologist (skin care specialist).
Minoxidil can also be used to treat female-pattern baldness. However, these treatments don't work for everyone and only work for as long as they're continued. They are not available on the NHS and can be expensive. Alopecia areata is usually treated with steroid injections, although it's sometimes possible to use a steroid cream, gel or ointment. A treatment called immunotherapy may also be used.
This involves stimulating hair growth by causing an intentional allergic reaction in the affected areas of skin. If you have significant hair loss of any type, you may decide to wear a wig. Wigs are available on the NHS, but you may have to pay unless you qualify for help with charges. There are also some surgical options for hair loss, including a hair transplant and artificial hair implants. Read more about treating hair loss. Emotional issues Hair loss can be difficult to come to terms with. The hair on your head can be a defining part of your identity. If you start to lose your hair, it can feel as if you're losing part of your identity.This can affect your self-confidence and sometimes lead to depression.
Speak to your GP if you're finding it difficult to deal with your hair loss. They may suggest counselling. You may also benefit from joining a support group or speaking to other people in the same situation – for example, through online forums. A number of charities, such as Alopecia UK, have support groups and online forums where you can talk to others who are experiencing hair loss.