Alopecia: Spotting the Signs of Premature Hair Loss

Man looking at hair in the mirror Alopecia: Spotting the Signs of Premature Hair Loss

Your hair helps define you. It frames your face and is one of the first things people notice when they see you. So, it is quite disconcerting when you notice hair loss. Some of us who note changes also fear that it might be a sign of a life-threatening disease, like cancer. This is not the case. Most people who deal with alopecia (hair loss) are otherwise healthy. There are a variety of treatments to help curb hair loss and restore your hair to its former glory. If you notice the signs of premature hair loss, you can quickly take steps to treat your alopecia.

What to Know About Alopecia

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia affects almost 7 million people in the United States alone. There are a variety of types of alopecia. Androgenetic alopecia, or male/female pattern baldness, is the most common. This type of alopecia usually manifests as a receding hairline in men and an overall thinning of hair in women.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease where the body attacks its own hair follicles, causing them to shrink and decrease hair production. This is the most common type of alopecia areata and is marked by overlapping circles of hair loss.

In addition to these major types, there are a few other varieties, like diffuse alopecia, which is the thinning of the hair instead of hair loss in patches, and traumatic alopecia, which occurs when the hair is held in tight braids or ponytails or treated chemically, or hair is pulled because of a behavior disorder called trichotillomania.

Who is At Risk for Alopecia

Alopecia affects men, women, and children of all ages. Most people who develop alopecia will notice their first hair loss before the age of 30. It has been shown that genetics plays a significant role in the development of alopecia. People who have a history of autoimmune disease in their family tend to be more at risk for having alopecia areata. While hair loss for women from alopecia areata is more common, men are more likely to have considerable hair loss. Men are also more likely to have a family history of alopecia. Some other risk factors include taking certain medications, being under physical or mental stress, experiencing hormonal changes, and suffering from certain types of infections or malnutrition.

Signs of Alopecia

There are a variety of signs of hair loss, depending on the type of alopecia you have. You may notice chunks of hair in your hairbrush or clumps that fall out in the shower. You might also see circular, coin-sized bald spots on your scalp, which can be limited to a small area on your head or all over your scalp. The hair loss can occur gradually, slowly spreading over an area, or suddenly. Women with female pattern baldness will experience this gradual hair loss, noticing a slow thinning of the hair all over their head. However, this rarely leads to complete hair loss.

If you are a male, look out for facial hair loss, as well as loss of hair on your chest, back, and scalp. Males suffering from male-pattern baldness will experience a definite pattern to their hair loss, usually starting above the temples and eventually creating an “m” shape on the hairline.

Alopecia doesn’t just affect the hair on your scalp. You might also notice the thinning of your eyebrows or eyelashes. Sometimes there is itching or tingling from inflamed follicles in the affected area before the hair begins to fall out. Hair that breaks off easily and scales or flakes that occur at the area of hair loss are other signs of alopecia.

Changes in your fingernails can also be a sign of alopecia. These changes include white spots and lines, pinpoint dents or notches, sudden roughness or dullness, the thinning and splitting of your nails, and nail pain that affects your daily activities.

Help for Alopecia

Many people with alopecia feel alone and ashamed, but there are many hair loss treatments and methods of hair loss prevention, including medicines and vitamins for hair loss, light therapy, hair transplant surgery, and changes in diet and hair care.

Don’t ignore signs of hair loss. If you notice any of the signs of alopecia, consult a dermatologist at Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. Vanguard can determine the root causes of your hair loss and get you started on a treatment plan that will restore your hair and your confidence.

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