What is Alopecia? The Surprising Truth
The causes of Alopecia a.k.a. “Why is my hair falling out?”
This is one of the first things to remember when discussing Alopecia:
It’s not all the same. In fact, because “alopecia” is simply defined medically as the absence of hair where it normally grows, there’s a huge range of conditions where alopecia is a symptom or the end result.
What are the types of alopecia?
This is one of the most common types of hair loss. What is alopecia areata?
It’s an autoimmune disease where your body mistakenly identifies the hair follicles as foreign objects which needs to be attacked.
Hair loss, in this case, will occur in small, distinctive coin-shaped patches.
It can generally be reversed with the correct treatment, though approximately 1 in 10 people who have the condition face permanent hair loss.
If you already suffer from an autoimmune condition like Type 1 Diabetes, you’re more likely to have alopecia areata.
Likewise, if other people in your family have the condition. This leads scientists to believe that the causes of alopecia areata have a genetic component.
Alopecia totalis is a more severe or extensive version of alopecia areata. In this case, the hair loss will affect your whole scalp.
Another step on from alopecia totalis, alopecia universalis means that all of the places on your body which grow hair will be affected.
Also known as “scarring alopecia,” cicatricial alopecia happens when you have complications with another condition, such as lichen planus or scleroderma.
In these cases the hair follicles are destroyed, so your hair will not grow back.
Chemotherapy is one of the leading causes of anagen effluvium. It’s a type of hair loss that affects your scalp, your face, as well as the rest of your body.
In almost all cases, hair loss caused by chemotherapy is temporary.
This type of alopecia is generally caused by immense physical or emotional stress, or an illness such as cancer.
Extreme changes in diet – including crash diets – can also cause telogen effluvium.
Again in most cases, once the cause has been dealt with, the symptom – hair loss – will stop.
Female and Male pattern baldness:
What is the difference between male-pattern baldness and alopecia?
It’s a common question. Male pattern baldness is generally a natural part of a man growing older.
Half of men will be affected by the time they reach their fifties. The hair loss happens in a distinctive “pattern” which leaves a horseshoe-shaped area of hair around the sides and back of the head.
Male-pattern baldness is hereditary, so the old wives’ tale that says if your grandfather is bald you could go bald too has some element of truth!
Female-pattern baldness on the other hand is far less understood – probably because it’s far less common.
Whether it is hereditary or not has not been confirmed.
Both male and female pattern baldness might be caused by hormonal imbalances – too much testosterone in the case of the former, and fewer female hormones in the case of the latter.
This is the reason why female-pattern baldness is sometimes more obvious in women who’ve been through the menopause.
What causes alopecia?
As the list above shows, the causes of alopecia are many and varied.
You should always consult your doctor in the event that you start suffering from hair loss.
The cause could be an underlying health condition, genetic predisposition to this kind of problem, a dietary change, stress, as well as a wide variety of factors.
In many cases, when it comes to what alopecia is and what causes it, there’s still a lot of work to be done and things to be done naturally.
Is there a cure for baldness?
Sadly, no. But luckily, there are now many hair replacement systems which can help prevent the emotional stress that hair loss can cause.
It’s always worth talking to your doctor or another trustworthy professional if you feel distressed by any kind of hair loss.