If you’re losing an unusual amount of hair on a regular basis, you might have stress to blame (a condition called telogen effluvium, where hair follicles get stuck in a resting phase.) But the cause may not be stress at all. Read on to find out more about alopecia, its causes, and available treatments.
Simply put, alopecia is hair loss. Typically, most of a person’s scalp is continuously growing hair -- about 100,000 hairs to be precise. The hair growth cycle takes an average of four years but might be as long as seven depending on the person. It’s normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs per day, as the scalp is regenerating new hair. But when someone has alopecia, they’re actually losing a greater number of hairs than they’re growing in.
Hereditary thinning or baldness is known as pattern alopecia and it’s quite common. Many people notice a receding hairline with age. It can develop in both males and females. Men frequently lose all or most of their hair over time, but women rarely go completely bald. If you have other types of alopecia, you might notice hair coming out in clumps when you brush it. Or perhaps you have small, bald patches on the scalp or beard. In rare, advanced cases, eyebrow and eyelash hair can also fall out.
Pattern alopecia or androgenic alopecia (thinning hair) is hereditary, inherited from either side of the family, and believed to be caused by hormonal changes. Alopecia causes include thyroid disorders and chronic illnesses, where an overactive or underactive thyroid can affect hair growth patterns. Lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder, is another cause of alopecia. Postpartum alopecia affects some women after childbirth. Other contributing factors include certain medications, insufficient protein in the diet, low iron blood levels, fungal infections, and more.
There are many classifications of alopecia. While androgenic alopecia is inherited, alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disorder. Hair may grow back by itself after a period of time, either in its original color or gray or white. Alopecia totalis happens when all of the hair on the scalp falls out. Alopecia universalis causes complete loss of hair, including facial hair like eyebrows, while alopecia barbae affects the beard area.
Fortunately, there are some alopecia treatments in the form of topical therapies and oral medications like Propecia and Minoxidil. Advances in technology also offer several hair restoration therapies, including hair follicle transplants or weaves. But depending on the cause of alopecia, these may not be needed at all. By appropriately treating the underlying cause of the hair loss, the follicles may naturally begin to produce again without additional methods. This is why it’s crucial to see a dermatologist if you’re suffering from excess hair loss.
If you’re in the greater New York City area and struggling with hair loss, contact Vanguard Dermatology for an appointment. With a thorough medical examination, we can determine whether or not you have alopecia and talk to you about potential treatment options.