Alopecia refers to the partial or total loss of hair from the scalp or other part of the body. There are several types of alopecia. The three most common forms of non-scarring alopecia are:
Androgenetic alopecia (baldness)
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as baldness, is the most common form of hair loss. In men, androgens (male hormone) and genetic factors both play a key role. Male-pattern baldness begins with thinning at the temples, with the hairline gradually receding around the perimeter and the top of the head, often leaving a ring of hair along the bottom of the scalp. Over time, the hair is replaced by sparse downy hair. This type of hair loss can also affect women. The presentation in women is different however, as hair usually only thins on the top of the head. The incidence of baldness increases with age.
Diffused hair loss is usually triggered by an underlying cause. Intense stress, hormonal issues (e.g., thyroid gland disorder), certain diseases (e.g., HIV), and various medications are examples of such triggers. Telogen effluvium can occur at any age and affects men and women equally. This type of alopecia does not cause complete baldness, it appears as a diffuse thinning of hair on the scalp. While it is usually temporary, but may become chronic in some.
Alopecia areata (spot baldness)
Alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness, is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own hair follicles. It is a type of inflammatory alopecia. Alopecia areata causes hair to fall out in patches, resulting in hair loss on the scalp, face and other areas of the body such as the eyebrows and beard.
Depending on the reason behind the hair loss, it may be possible to slow the process. To do so however, one must act quickly. As soon as the first signs of significant hair loss occur, hair on the pillow, for example, you should consult your physician to determine the cause. If your hair loss is associated with a skin problem, a suitable treatment may resolve the problem. If it is androgenic alopecia (baldness), oral treatments are available or topical solutions can be applied directly to the scalp. As a last resort, you can always opt for a surgical solution which involves hair transplantation, an effective albeit costly solution.
Even if hair loss is difficult to prevent, simple measures can be taken to keep it healthy:
- Avoid damaging hair (dying, tinting, perms)
- Allow hair to air dry as much as possible (avoid hairdryers)
- Use a gentle shampoo
For more information, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.