Alopecia: What It Is, What Are The Signs And How It Is Treated
Alopecia is a generic term that represents a significant number of types of hair loss, ranging from thinning to complete baldness (in extreme cases) in both body/face hair and hair. The term alopecia is commonly used as an abbreviation for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks hair follicles. It is one of the most common forms of Alopecia, although several types have different effects characteristics. Changes in hair, including thinning or shedding can also mean a medical condition that needs some attention. It is important to speak to a doctor or trichologist if you notice differences in hair density or general condition.
How to Differentiate Alopecia From Other Forms of Hair Loss?
While the human body naturally sheds a few strands of hair (around 100 a day) which are then replaced, Alopecia is considered a health issue. It is different from the more common type of hair loss, male/female pattern baldness, a condition called androgenetic Alopecia.
In men, androgenetic Alopecia takes the form of a receding hairline with thinning at the crown and temples. Alopecia areata does not form this line like androgenetics, it causes patches of baldness.
These spots are usually the size of a large coin, appear on the scalp with different frequencies, and can affect anyone regardless of age. Baldness is more common among older men.
In some cases of alopecia areata, the hair will naturally regrow over time. Those affected by male and female baldness will not be able to regrow their hair naturally.
Any hair change can be a first symptom of Alopecia. Particular symptoms to watch out for are:
- Hair breaking more often, indicating that new hair is weak
- You feel like you're losing more hair than you should
- Tufts of hair on the pillow in the morning
- Tufts of hair falling out when it is washed
- Hairless patches on the scalp
- Changes in fingernails and toenails – small indentations, white lines, and loss of nail condition.
A trichologist or dermatologist diagnoses any type of Alopecia upon a physical examination, and a study of the patient's medical history (also including family medical history)- The diagnostic process may also include hair analysis and blood tests.
Alopecia Treatment Options
There are a variety of treatments for Alopecia, both medical and product. They depend on the type of Alopecia you have (linked to other factors such as genetics and age)
The first step is to seek advice from a doctor or trichologist, who will diagnose the type of Alopecia and then be able to discuss the right treatment for you.
In cases of alopecia areata (and in some other types, such as postpartum), it can cause the hair to grow back naturally over time. At first, it is likely to appear white and thin, but after a few months, it changes and starts to thicken and take on a natural color.