What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is the partial or complete loss of hair, especially on the scalp either in patches (alopecia areata), on the entire head (alopecia totalis) or over the entire body (alopecia universalis).It is a situation where your hair falls out because the body thinks the hair follicles are the enemy and so they are attacked and hair falls out and sometimes ceases to grow back. Basically there is a miscommunication among the immune system and the body ends up attacking itself.

Types of alopecia

There are different types of alopecia. Listed below are some of the types. Alopecia Areata (AA): It is understood to be an autoimmune condition which causes patchy hair loss.

Alopecia Totalis (AT)

It is more advanced form of alopecia areata which results in total loss of hair on the scalp.

Alopecia Universalis (AU)

It is most advanced form of alopecia areata which results in total loss of hair on the body including eyelashes and eyebrows.

Scarring alopecia

It is also known as cicatricial alopecia, is usually caused by complications of another condition. In this type of alopecia, the hair follicle is completely destroyed. This means your hair won’t grow back. 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 decalvans – a rare form of alopecia that most commonly affects men, causing baldness and scarring of the affected areas.

Anagen effluvium

It is a 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 i.e. chemotherapy. In some cases, other cancer treatments including immunotherapy and radiotherapy can also cause hair loss. Telogen effluvium: It is a common type of alopecia where there is widespread thinning of the hair, rather than specific bald patches. Your hair may feel thinner. It can be caused by your body reacting to: hormonal changes, intense emotional stress, intense physical stress, such as childbirth. 

Male and Female-pattern baldness

It is the most common type of hair loss, affecting around half of all men by 50 years of age. It usually starts around the late 20s or early 30s and most men have some degree of hair loss by their late 30s. It generally follows a pattern of a receding hairline, followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples, leaving a horseshoe shape around the back and sides of the head. Sometimes it can progress to complete baldness, although this is uncommon. Male-pattern baldness is hereditary, which means it runs in families. It’s thought to be caused by oversensitive hair follicles, linked to having too much of a certain male hormone.

Female-pattern baldness, hair usually only thins on top of the head. It’s not clear if it is hereditary and the causes are less well understood. It tends to be more noticeable in women who have been through the menopause, perhaps because they have fewer female hormones.

Causes of alopecia

There are many different potential causes of alopecia. These can include allergies, irritants, toxins, burns, injuries and infections. We also know that  certain  medications  (especially  anabolic  steroids), chronic  kidney  failure,  radiation  and  chemotherapy  can  cause  hair  to  fall  out.  Sometimes,  hair  loss  may  be  due  to  a  vitamin  A  overdose ,  iron  deficiency,  anemia,  a  malfunctioning  thyroid  gland,  fever,  hormonal  imbalances  or pregnancy.  Also viral or bacterial infection, trauma, poor nutrition, irregular lifestyle, etc. can lead to alopecia.

Hair loss is usually the only symptom. A few people may also feel a burning sensation or itching. Alopecia areata usually begins as one-two patches of hair loss. Hair loss is most often seen on the scalp. It may also occur in the beard, eyebrows and arms or legs in some people. Patches where hair has fallen out are smooth and round in shape. They may be peach-coloured:  Loss of all scalp hair (alopecia totalis), often within 6 months after symptoms first start, Loss of all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis).

Thinning hair is the most obvious symptom of androgenic alopecia. In men, it begins at the crown, temples, or both. They also tend to get a “high forehead” that’s associated with a receding hairline. For women, hair loss begins on the top of the head. While men can go completely bald, women don’t usually lose all the hair on the crown of the head.

If  hair  loss  is  not  widespread,  the  hair  will  often  re-grow  in  a  few months  without  treatment. Common treatments may include: Corticosteroids Injection: Corticosteroids are medicines containing steroids, a type of hormone. They work by suppressing the immune system (the body’s natural defence against infection and illness). This is useful in alopecia areata because the condition is thought to be caused by the immune system damaging the hair follicles. Minoxidil lotion is applied to the scalp and can stimulate hair re-growth after about 12 weeks. However, it can take up to a year for the medication to take full effect.


Minoxidil is licensed to treat both male- and female-pattern baldness, but is not specifically licensed to treat alopecia areata. Medicines applied to the skin including corticosteroids, immunotherapy, etc. Ultraviolet light therapy. Immunotherapy: This may be an effective form of treatment for extensive or total hair loss, although fewer than half of those who are treated will see worthwhile hair re-growth.



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