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Alopecia Overview:

Alopecia is the medical terminology for the everyday problem we face. Most people are concerned about looks. The skin can be coated with a variety of cosmetics to achieve the look desired immediately, but what that worries the most is hair loss. In fact, the worry about the loss of hair again leads to locks of hair falling everywhere. Alopecia is hair loss in the medical world. There are multiple reasons why alopecia occurs. This can be due to the medications one takes. It can be because of lifestyle for a few. For others, it can be because of less nutrient intake, stress, and numerous other reasons can be listed. The cause of the condition can determine what symptoms one will be affected by. From the bald patch that is small to the patches everywhere on the scalp, the symptoms can be threatening and can vary.

Alopecia is of multiple types:

Common forms of alopecia are listed below, and these are the chief types. There are many more forms too.

- Male patterned baldness:

50% of men suffer due to this type of alopecia and this is the most common form. The men are affected when they reach 40 years. This is called androgenic alopecia. There are varying reasons ranging from hereditary to the presence of certain hormones. This hormone can have a negative impact on the hair follicles. This starts with the hairline receding, which many fail to come to notice initially. The hairline slowly becomes very thin, and even when the men are in their late 20s or early 30s the hair loss starts, and unfortunately, men fail to notice this.

- Female patterned baldness:

Baldness in women still has the reason that is yet to be found. Studies are going on, and the exact reason is yet to be out. These women start becoming bald after menopause.

- Alopecia areata:

The patches across the scalp that resolve and occur again are the alopecia areata. This affects everybody, men and women across the age groups. Even kids are affected. It is commonly found in teenagers and young adults. It can affect any part of the hairy body. The patches have usually formed the scalp. This is a condition that is related to the immune system. This is the autoimmune disease that is caused when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, considering them foreign bodies. This can be caused due to hereditary, and typical when the close blood relation has it.

- Scarring alopecia:

This is permanent hair loss. This is called also as cicatricial alopecia. Rare conditions like scleroderma and discoid lupus are the causes of this kind of alopecia. In this condition, the hair follicles are destroyed completely and there are no chances of them getting back to life. This can happen to men and women, and most commonly in adults. It is very rare in children.

- Anagen effluvium:

This can occur on the scalp, face and all parts of the body. This condition is caused by chemicals mostly. The chemicals that are used to treat cancer are often found to the culprits here. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy patients are found to be affected by anagen effluvium. This is a temporary condition, and not all chemicals lead to this. New hair can grow in another 6 months after quitting the treatment.

- Telogen effluvium:

The hair becomes thin and falls out lot more than it ought to. Here no bald patches are formed. The hair becomes very thin, but it is not common to expect complete hair loss. The condition affects only scalp and no other parts of the body are affected. In many cases, the hair can grow back after 6 months. This can be caused due to stress, hormonal changes, cancer, medications, severe infections, and physical stress.

Symptoms of Alopecia:

- Hair loss that is severe is the common symptom for all these types

- When hair is found in bunches all around at an alarming rate, contacting the doctor is recommended.

- No home remedy or ingredients can help in the regrowth of hair, and after a shower, hair loss is very significant.

- In a few cases, rashes and scars are visible on the scalp. Itching too can be experienced.

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Causes of Alopecia:

Alopecia has several causes. This can be due to a disease or a chronic disease. It can be because of ageing, which is quite natural. The causes are extensive and include:

Male and female pattern baldness :

- Hereditary is often pointed out in this type of condition. This is due to the level of hormones that can run across the families. The hormone dihydrotestosterone made of testosterone, the male hormone is behind this condition. In a few individuals, the hair follicles are sensitive to a great extent to the hormone dihydrotestosterone that is also known as DHT. This hormone is the reason behind the thinning of hair and baldness. In this condition, the hair grows shorter and only for a very short duration.

- The scalp is affected with the regular intervals.

- In women with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome, PCOS in short, alopecia is common. This is because they have a higher level of male sex hormones, and their hormone levels are also highly disturbed. While hair is thin on the scalp, excessive facial hair is also seen in such women.

Alopecia Areata:

- An autoimmune disease causes this condition. The immune system is the defence system of the body. It works by fighting against the foreign bodies. In a few cases, the own immune system of the body recognizes the body’s cells and tissues as enemies and destroy them. This is why the blood glucose levels to shoot up, as insulin-producing cells are destroyed by the immune system. The same happens here with the hair follicles.

- In this condition, the hair follicles are not damaged permanently, and they can always grow back. However, this is recurrent.

- In people with hypothyroidism, vitiligo and diabetes, and other autoimmune disorders, this sort of hair loss is seen.

- Down’s syndrome affected people too are seen suffering from this condition.

- Genetic susceptibility play a vital role in this condition.

Scarring alopecia:

Few conditions like lichen planus, discoid lupus, scleroderma, folliculitis decalvans and frontal fibrosing alopecia cause this condition. Rashes, rough patches and scars are seen in a few areas of the scalp when affected by this condition.

Anagen effluvium:

- Drugs used for various cancer curing therapies can cause this condition.

- Hair loss can occur on the scalp, eyebrows and body.

Telogen effluvium:

- Various reasons can be behind this condition. Pregnancy is one of the reasons, and feeding mothers to experience hair loss severely.

- Severe infections like jaundice and chronic diseases like cancer can lead to this condition.

Read More: Facial Palsy Causes | Hematuria Causes

How is it diagnosed with Alopecia?

A dermatologist can be able to identify the alopecia condition at the very outset. Based on the patches, the hair loss form can be identified with ease. However, in a few cases, a few tests can be recommended.

- Blood tests to find if there are any infections. For instance, hepatitis can cause illness and hair loss. Even after the cure, tests for hepatitis might be repeated, to find if there are traces leading to hair loss.

- Hormonal levels tests, tests to find about thyroid levels are suggested to see if these hormones can be the reasons behind the hair loss. To grow back the hair, the root cause has to be treated. In fact, in obese women, or women with flesh throat area, the doctors find it easy to link with hormonal disruption or thyroid problems behind hair loss.

- In women with irregular periods, an ultrasound scan can be suggested to identify the existence of PCOS. This helps in finding if the hormonal disruption or male hormones that cause the hair loss.

- Recent medical history can be analyzed to check if there are any unfound reasons that lead to hair loss. The doctor might also ask a series of questions relating to the family’ hair loss to find if genetic susceptibility plays a role here.

Treatment of Alopecia:

It has to be understood that in many cases, hair loss is not a serious condition. However, at the early ages, it can be distressing and embarrassing, especially in women. There are several treatment options that can help one to regain the self-confidence.

- In male pattern baldness, finasteride and minoxidil can be used to treat the condition. Minoxidil is also used to treat female pattern baldness. These drugs though don’t assure to bring back the lost hair, can prevent the further damage by cutting down hair loss.

- Immunotherapy and steroids are used to treat alopecia areata. The inducing of an agent that can cause an allergic response in the area of the bald patches is called immunotherapy.

- Surgical methods can also help in regaining the lost hair. There are implants used. Hair follicles are taken off from the back of the head and implanted in the forehead and areas where there is baldness found in the scalp. Usually, all these conditions hit from the forehead, and the back head hair follicles are still healthy.

Alopecia in children:

In children alopecia can be due to 2 reasons:

- Tinea capitis:

This is a condition caused due to ringworm in the scalp. This fungal infection can lead to scaly patches on the scalp. The broken skin is also a sign of the presence of this fungus. Black dots on the scalp can be seen, and these are contagious. When children affected by the ringworm are in the house, they should be not allowed to use the others’ pillows, sheets, and hats.  Using medications to fight fungus, and antifungal shampoo for a few weeks can help come out of this condition.

- Alopecia Areata:

Oval patches on the scalp in several areas can be seen. Scaling is also found. This is due to the autoimmune disorder, where the immune system destroys the hair follicles consider them to be foreign bodies.

Read More: Amenorrhea Treatment | Celiac Disease Treatment

Causes of Alopecia:

In children hair loss can be due to other reasons also

- High fever due to viral and bacterial infection can cause hair loss in children. Usually, the hair grows back when the children are back to form after the illness.

- Chemotherapy given to fight cancer can lead to hair loss in children

- Children who are fussy and picky eaters might not get enough nutrients. This can again be the reason behind hair loss in children.

- In children who face emotional stress and trauma, hair loss cannot be ruled out. The stress can be because of family, academic or peer pressure.

- Children who suffer from asthma can develop alopecia when they grow up

When children lose more hair, tufts of them coming off when combing, it can be taken as a symptom of alopecia. Also, bald patches shout out the condition.

Various treatment methods can help in bringing back the hair in children. In kids, however, alternative therapies are preferred. Immunotherapy and suppressants to control the immune system are prescribed for alopecia areata. Fungus infections can be controlled by antifungal shampoo. But natural therapies are considered better for there are no side effects. Applying scented oil on the scalp is considered effective. This can help to boost the circulation of blood to the scalp, and can also relieve stress in children. Hair loss can occur in kids and adults owing to all these reasons. A few preventive measures can be taken to avoid this from childhood.

- Maintain hair care hygiene. Washing hair twice in a week is recommended. Wash hair, when exposed to dirt and filth.

- Do not use hard water to wash hair. Very hot water should be never used to wash the scalp or hair.

- Never share combs and hair clips or hats. They can spread fungal infections.

- Use mild hair care products. Harsh products can only accelerate hair loss.

- Take the right diet. Take lots of vitamin A, green leafy vegetables, and fresh fruits.

- Do not keep trying all the shampoos seen on the commercials. Stick to what fits.

- A dermatologist is a right person to suggest using the hair care products or supplements for hair growth.

Hair loss is reversible in most cases. But, contacting the doctor at the earliest only can help.

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Last updated on : 25-10-2018

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