Sunday, May 22nd, 2022

Types of Alopecia: An Overview

While male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is most common, there are many different types of hair loss that affect men, women, and children.

Hair loss is rarely something one chooses. But it’s extremely common, more for men but lots of women and children experience it as well. What’s less known is that there are many types of hair loss, the bulk of it due to genetics, some to trauma and medical treatment, and some of it due to behaviors and emotional illness.

Knowing the different types of hair loss and what causes it is a first step in addressing them and, in many cases, reversing the loss. It’s a good idea to be armed with as much information before picking up the phone and calling the local hair loss treatment clinic. When you finally do, you’ll want to be certain the clinic provides hair loss solutions for women and men.

Start with the medical term, which is alopecia. The word itself derives from “alopex,” the Greek word for fox. Evidently, the animal is often afflicted with mange, which includes balding in patches. Alopecia is the umbrella term, but the specific types of hair loss comes under the following names (grouped by general causative factors):

Genetic causes of hair loss

  • Androgenetic alopecia – This is a generalized, diffused thinning of the hair over most of the scalp. It includes male and female pattern baldness, although it is expressed differently between the genders.
  • Alopecia areata – This is balding in patches, perhaps due to an autoimmune disorder (the body attacks the hair follicles, treating them as foreign).
  • Alopecia totalis – This is hair loss where almost all scalp hair is gone (causes are various and sometimes idiopathic, of unknown origin).
  • Alopecia Universalis – While rare, it is the most extensive form of hair loss: All hair on the scalp and body – even eyebrows and eyelashes – falls out.

Environmental/external causes of hair loss

  • Telogen effluvium – Sudden and diffuse loss of hair attributed to childbirth, major surgery, severe stress, and chemotherapy.
  • Scarring alopecia (aka cicatricial alopecia) – When there is trauma to an area where there is natural hair growth (the scalp, eyebrows, facial hair or elsewhere on the body), the scar tissue does not support hair follicles.
  • Anagen effluvium – Exposure to certain chemicals and radioactive substances that fracture the hair shafts at the scalp, including chemotherapy and radiation applied in cancer treatment. This condition is temporary.

Patient-caused hair loss

  • Traction alopecia – Unfortunately for people who tug tightly on their hair to achieve a particular hairstyle (braids, dreadlocks, pigtails, ponytails), this irritates the skin and hair follicles. The result is redness, itching, pus-producing ulcers and infections,
  • Trichotillomania –A self-inflicted (conscious and subconscious), continuous pulling of the hair. It typically occurs with children, adolescents, and women.

While the loss of hair in ancient Greece might have been simply accepted as one’s fate, the modern understanding of different types of hair loss and various forms of treatment now mean that baldness need not be destiny.

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