Hair loss can be a frustrating and complicated issue to deal with. There are a variety of different types of hair loss. Causes of hair loss can range from stress, genetics, to underlying issues within the body. Treatments for hair loss are specific to the type of hair loss you are experiencing, and can range from a simple supplement regimen to oral medications. Blood work is sometimes performed in an attempt to target the underlying cause of hair loss.
Androgenetic Alopecia (Genetic Hair Loss)
Androgenetic alopecia is also know as male and female pattern baldness or hereditary hair loss. Everyone loses hair. It is normal to lose about 50-100 hairs every day. However, if you see bald patches or lots of thinning, you may be experiencing alopecia. The most common type of alopecia is a medical condition called hereditary hair loss. About 80 million men and women in the United States have this type of hair loss.
There are many reasons why people experience hair loss. However, if hair loss is gradual and becomes more noticeable with each passing year, it is likely hereditary hair loss.
When men have hereditary hair loss, they often get a receding hairline. Many men see bald patches, especially on the top of the head. Women, on the other hand, tend to keep their hairline. They see noticeably thinning hair. The first sign of hair loss for many women is a widening part. In rare cases, men see noticeably thinning hair. And in rare cases, women can see a receding hairline or bald patches. The reasons for this are unknown.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means that the body’s immune system attacks the body. Alopecia occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles (structures that contain the roots of the hair). A person’s genetic makeup, combined with other factors, triggers this form of hair loss. It can occur at any age; it often begins in childhood. Alopecia is not contagious. It is not due to nerves. This disease most often occurs in otherwise healthy people.
Patchy hair loss often begins with one or more coin-sized, round, smooth, bare patches where hair once was. Patches left from hair loss can sometimes appear peach colored. You may first notice hair loss when you see clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower. Hair loss occurs mostly on the scalp, but it can involve eyebrows, eyelashes, beards, or any hair-bearing site. Patches vary in size. Alopecia areata also can affect your fingernails and toenails. Sometimes nail changes are the first sign of alopecia areata. Nails can have tiny pinpoint dents (pitting). They also can have white spots or lines, be rough, lose their shine, or become thin and split. Rarely nails change shape or fall off.
Telogen effluvium is a form of nonscarring (temporary) hair loss characterized by diffused hair shedding. This type of hair loss often occurs noticed suddenly after an individual has experienced stress. Physical stress, or illness, can cause this type of hair loss, as can emotional stress.
Typically, abrupt diffuse hair loss is noticed several weeks to several months after the incident has initiated the biologic program for hair loss. While the most often noticed hair loss occurs on the scalp, some individuals may also notice hair loss elsewhere on the body. Significant hair shedding usually occurs when shampooing, combing, or even when gently manipulating the hair. Shedding usually slowly decreases over 6 to 8 months once the cause for the hair loss is no longer present.
Lichen Planopilaris (LPP)
Lichen planopilaris, or scarring alopecia, is a rare inflammatory condition that results in progressive, permanent hair loss. This occurs most often on the scalp. LPP usually affects young adult women, although the age range is wide and can also affect men. Although LPP is rare, it is one of the most common causes of scarring hair loss on the scalp. The cause of LPP is unknown.
LPP typically presents as smooth white patches of scalp hair loss. No hair follicle openings can be seen in the areas of hair loss. At the edges of these patches there may be scale and redness around each hair follicle. Hairs can be easily pulled out. Common sites of involvement are the sides, front and lower back of the scalp. Symptoms are often absent, but may include itching, pain, tenderness, discomfort, burning
Traction alopecia is hair loss due to tight pulling on the hair, such as from frequently wearing your hair in a tight ponytail or braid. It is very common in African American women and in those who wear hair weaves.
Tight hairstyles that result in traction alopecia are often uncomfortable or painful. You may have a headache or soreness of the scalp from the tight hairstyle. While your hair is in that particular style, it may also be difficult to move your forehead or temples. During the beginning stage of traction alopecia, you may have red bumps or flaking of the scalp. There may also be small, short, broken hairs in this area. Eventually this will result in a recession of the hairline or part line with permanent hair loss.