You’re worried about your hair. Perhaps you’ve noticed more hair in the shower drain, on your pillow, or in your hairbrush. And you wonder if this hair loss is normal, or if you have a condition that could be causing you to lose more hair than normal. Learn the types of alopecia that define abnormal hair loss and the kinds of alopecia treatment that can help you regain your hair.
What is normal hair loss? The American Academy of Dermatology reports that it is normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. This is usually not noticeable, as your body is growing new hair at the same time it is shedding. However, if you experience sudden and noticeable hair loss or see a gradual thinning of hair or balding in an area, you might have alopecia. Alopecia is a catch-all term that describes a variety of conditions that cause hair loss. The Mayo Clinic says that this occurs when the hair follicle is damaged and scar tissue grows in its place or when the cycle of shedding and regrowth is disrupted. Most of these conditions are not contagious, and many are treatable. With proper care, the hair loss can be reversed.
When people hear “alopecia”, they most often think of alopecia areata, an auto-immune condition that causes patches of hair to fall out from the scalp or other areas of the body, such as the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes and armpits. Usually these bald patches are round or circular in shape, but some people lose their hair in long strips along their scalp. The majority of people who develop alopecia areata see their first hair loss in childhood or adolescence. Whether or not the hair regrows is unpredictable. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about half of young people who have alopecia areata have their hair grow back without treatment in a year. If you have patches that remain bald, your dermatologist can prescribe medication or suggest over-the-counter medications (like corticosteroids) that stimulate hair growth and are an effective alopecia areata treatment. Your dermatologist may also be able to perform hair transplant surgery.
Alopecia totalis refers to total hair loss on the scalp, while alopecia universalis is complete hair loss from the entire body, including the eyelashes and hair inside the nose. Like alopecia areata, these types of alopecia are autoimmune disorders. Alopecia universalis is very rare.
Androgenic alopecia is more often called male pattern and female pattern baldness. This type of alopecia is hereditary; you are more likely to have androgenic alopecia if family members also have it. This condition typically shows up as a receding hairline or bald spots in men and thinning hair in women. Unlike men, most women with female pattern hair loss do not lose all of their hair. Instead, their hair gradually thins, often most visible by a widening part in their hair line or a receding hairline. Hormones are probably part of the cause of female pattern baldness as many women with androgenic alopecia start to see hair loss after menopause and during or after pregnancy. If you have androgenic alopecia, you may be able to regain your hair through taking medications (Minoxidil, Rogaine, Finasteride). You can also hide the balding areas through the right haircut, getting hair weaves, wigs or hairpieces. Some people have found that laser treatments and microneedling result in a fuller head of hair And if you’re willing to undergo minor surgery that tends to be costly, you can undergo a hair transplant procedure.
Traction alopecia occurs when the hair is stressed by excessive pulling on the hair from tight hairstyles, like braids or ponytails. Unfortunately, the hair lost through traction alopecia is permanent. But, you can prevent further hair loss by changing the way you style and treat your hair.
Your hair loss could be linked to a number of other factors. Some of these include cancer treatment, certain medications, stress, a change in weight, a disease affecting the scalp (like psoriasis or ringworm), hair treatments and products, nutritional deficiencies and medical conditions (like thyroid disease). Most hair loss caused by these factors can be reversed. Your dermatologist can evaluate your hair loss to determine the cause and recommend or provide treatment.
Contact Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area to schedule your appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists. We can assess your hair loss, determine if it is normal or a type that requires treatment, and work with you to develop a plan to begin to restore your hair and prevent further hair loss.