The Different Types of Alopecia Explained
There is a large population of people suffering from forms of hair loss not related to Male or Female pattern baldness. On the average, hair loss experienced in women tends to be of these types, rather than your standard DHT inflicted loss that most men and some women experience.
The terms alopecia and hair loss are often used interchangably which is entirely understandable because, in effect, they both refer to the exact same general condition of a person losing their hair. Hairloss is a term used by the general public to refer to any form of alopecia. Alopecia is meant to be a medical term used by doctors but most often you’ll only ever hear it used by trichologists or possibly a dermatologist.What separates one from the other is simply this. Hairloss is used as a “catchall” phrase to cover anything which causes the loss of hair. Alopecia is the medical classification of each type of hairloss – there are far more types of hairloss than you probably ever imagined.Alopecia is different because it puts each type of hairloss into it’s own category. For example the most common type of hairloss is male pattern baldness (also referred to as MPB). The medical term for this is alopecia androgenetica or sometimes just androgenetic alopecia. Both of these medical terms refer to the common condition of male pattern baldness. Alopecia refers to hairloss. Androgen refers to the hormone “allergy” that causes male pattern baldness. Genetica refers to the fact that this type of hairloss is a genetically inherited condition. Oddly enough alopecia angrogenetica should only ever effect men but can affect women in rare cases.
So what other types of alopecia are there?
1. Alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is the loss of patches of hair on the head or elsewhere on the body. This type of hairloss can affect men, women or children of any ethnic background. Most troubling is the fact that this type of hairloss can appear pretty much overnight without any real warning.
So what causes alopecia areata?
There are numerous causes for this condition. Extreme stress, prolonged illness, prolonged high fevers, extreme reactions to medication or forms of viral attack. The hairloss experienced during alopecia areata is not always permanent and the hair does grow back in some people. So the good news is that it is many times due to an imbalance in the person’s system, which if rectified, will result in complete regrowth of hair. An effective set of blood tests is necessary to reveal any imbalances. Some of the most common causes are medications, pregnancy, birth control pills, thyroid malfunctions, anemia, syphilis, and arthritis. Whatever the cause may be, the body’s response is to initiate an autoimmune response, whereby the body perceives the follicles as foreign objects, and attempts to reject them from the system. A careful review of your medical history and the bloodwork we outline below should help identify the problem.
What are treatment for this?
There is no treatment which can provide a total cure for severe Alopecia Areata. A multifaceted approach has included the use of irritants such as dithranol and systemic steroids. Treatment with immune enhancers is occasionally useful but can cause unpleasant side-effects. Topical Minoxidil with or without oral steroids for short periods has been used. Cyclosporin may have dramatic effects but they are usually temporary. In deciding how to treat Alopecia Areata, the age of onset and severity are key factors. The mindset on treatment of Alopecia Areata is simply: Stimulate hair growth until your hair begins to grow again on its own. If your bloodwork revealed no obvious cause, then you will need to maintain the following treatments until the condition reverses itself. If there is a definite cause and you’ve rectified the problem, you may need to maintain these treatments for a year or so before your body can take over on its own. Treatment is dependent upon which type of AA you have. The mild type resulting in less than 50% loss of hair, or the more extensive type resulting in greater than 50% loss.
2. Alopecia universalis/totalis
Alopecia universalis/totalis is the total loss of all body hair including the face and upper body. This condition can also affect the growth of nails. Again this condition can appear with little or no warning in otherwise healthy adults or children.
What causes alopecia universalis?
Patients are usually otherwise healthy, but have more thyroid disease and vitiligo than the general population. Those with vitiligo (patchy loss of skin color) may also develop AU in time. Many individuals with Alopecia Universalis are born with some hair, but then begin losing it very quickly. The disorder is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. It is caused by a mutation in a gene dubbed HR in chromosome band 8p21.2 that is the human homologue of the mouse “hairless” gene — the human version of the gene in the mouse that is responsible for hairless mice.
How Treating Alopecia Universalis
It is important to beware of the many companies out there claiming they can regrow hair for those with Alopecia Universalis. Please be a cautious and skeptical consumer, as the chances of these treatments being legitimate are a million to one. If they truly worked, the whole world would know about them. Since treatments for advanced forms of Alopecia Universalis are less effective, a wig may be a good option for you. Believe it or not, there are many companies which offer undetectable wigs for these uses, as well as for chemotherapy patients. Make sure your provider is willing to cut, thin, and style the wig often for you, and provides sufficient adhesive for your more active days. Some wigs come with suction caps which attach directly to the wig. They’re a little more expensive, but are worth the investment.
3. Telogen Effluvium
A condition resulting in general thinning of the hair over a period of months. Often called “shedding”, it is most commonly experienced by those who have just given birth, or are undergoing Chemotherapy.
What causes of Telogen Effluvium?
Telogen Efluvium is typically caused by a traumatic event which occurred several months prior, in the system of the person experiencing it. The most common causes are Childbirth, Chemotherapy, Severe Infection, Severe Chronic Illness, Severe Psychological Stress, Major Surgery, Hypo or Hyperthyroidism, Crash Diets resulting in poor health or inadequate protein, and medications. It is these factors which cause a disruption in the normal hair cycle and result in a premature cessation of the Anagen (growth) phase. Hairs enter into Telogen, and within 2 to 5 months, the hair begins to fall.
Since Telogen Effluvium is a result of a past traumatic event on the system, it typically reverses itself as that particular event no longer exists. It may take several months before the hair grows back in. Consequently, there are no treatments, per se, for Telogen Effluvium. One can focus on products that have been proven to stimulate growth, such as Rogaine , Tricomin Therapy Spray, or Nizoral Shampoo, but if the cause of the condition is gone, these simply speed up the turnaround time for regrowth. This could be considered a “treatment”.