Alopecia: Types, Causes, Treatment Options
Updated: Apr 25
Recent reports show that over 320 million Americans suffer from some form of hair loss. Among them, more than 20% are under the age of 30. It means every 1 in 5 people in the U.S is losing their hair. Studies show that hair loss conditions affect more men than women. In today’s article, we will talk about a common hair loss condition known as alopecia.
What is Alopecia?
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), alopecia is an autoimmune characterized by fall out of hair in small patches. Although these patches are unnoticeable initially, they become apparent and identifiable over time.
A person suffering from alopecia has a compromised immune system, which attacks follicles and causes hair loss. According to MedlinePlus Genetics, the condition affects one in every one thousand people in the U.S. Although there are several types of alopecia, the most common types of this condition are androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata.
Types of Alopecia
Different alopecia types are alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia, alopecia totalis, traction alopecia, and Cicatricial alopecia.
Alopecia areata is a common hair loss condition and an autoimmune disorder that results in thinning hair, leading to patchy hair loss. Although the most obvious cause is genetic, some studies show that higher levels of stress hormones also trigger the condition.
It is a type of alopecia that affects both men and women, leading to hair loss. The condition is called male-pattern baldness in men. Androgenic alopecia leads to a well-defined hair loss pattern that begins above both temples. The hairline forms an “M” shape over time. Studies highlight that androgenic alopecia has many causes, but in females, the condition is triggered by hormones, including ovarian cysts, contraceptive pills, menopause, and even pregnancy.
Alopecia Totalis is a skin and hair medical condition. It is quite different from alopecia areata that leads to complete baldness. Unlike androgenic alopecia that causes pattern baldness, the totalis leads to complete scalp baldness. Studies show that the cause of this condition is unknown, but the triggering mechanism is most often disturbances in the immune system.
Traction alopecia is a condition caused by external factors. For instance, several studies have reported that pulling on the hair repeatedly can cause traction alopecia. People can also develop this hair loss condition when they wear braids, buns, and tight ponytails. Besides, if you are using chemical products, including paraben and sulfate-based shampoos and heating products, your likelihood of getting the condition increases.
Also known as scarring hair loss, the condition is characterized by thinning and breakage of hair strands followed by scarring on the scalp. Researchers believe that the condition is caused by a group of rare diseases that directly affect hair follicles. As a result, your hair follicles are replaced by scar tissues, leading to permanent hair loss.
Causes of Alopecia
In general, alopecia has different causes because there are various types of hair loss conditions. However, the condition is most often believed to be caused by autoimmune disorders when the faulty immune system attacks hair follicles. Some of the common causes of alopecia are:
Genetics: Hereditary conditions or genetics is the most common cause of alopecia. For example, male and female pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is widely associated with genetics.
Hormonal Changes: Alopecia is also caused by changes in vital body hormones. Hair loss in women is most often triggered by hormonal changes during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and menopause. It also occurs due to problems in the thyroid gland.
Medical Conditions: A growing body of research evidence shows that a compromised immune system causes conditions like alopecia areata. However, hair loss also occurs due to ringworm (scalp infections) and trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder).
Medications: Everyone knows that each medication or drug available on the market produces certain adverse effects. Medicines used for cardiovascular problems, hypertension, gout, arthritis, and depression have harmful side effects, including alopecia or hair loss.
Hair Products: The use of hair styling products such as cornrows, pigtails, ponytails, shampoos, gels, conditions, and hot-oil hair treatments can lead to hair loss. For example, traction alopecia is caused by the pulling of hair and the use of hair styling products.
Treatment for Alopecia
Research shows that there is no sophisticated treatment option for alopecia. However, the symptoms or intensity of the condition can be controlled by medication and homemade remedies. Some of them are:
Topical Immunotherapy: The treatment option is useful for people with alopecia areata. It involves applying chemicals to the scalp to cause an allergic reaction, leading to hair growth eventually. However, the therapy does not work for everyone.
Corticosteroids: These are drugs with anti-inflammatory properties to treat autoimmune diseases. Health professionals and dermatologists often give this drug through injections into the scalp. However, corticosteroids are also available in the form of pills, creams, and ointments. Although corticosteroids are effective, they take a long time to regrow hair.
Minoxidil: It is an effective treatment option for curing pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia. Minoxidil is an FDA-approved drug used to treat hair loss conditions in men and women. It contains beneficial ingredients that stimulate hair growth. Some studies show that the medication may take about 12 weeks before a person sees hair growth. Remember, the treatment does not work for everyone. Therefore, it is best to consult your dermatologist.
Homemade Remedies: Although there is a need for more research, some studies show that essential oils or natural fruit or vegetable juices can treat alopecia. These include garlic juice, onion juice, almond oil, cooled green tea, coconut milk, honey, and rosemary oil. Apply a small number of oils or juices on your scalp and rub it for a few minutes. Leave it for some time, and then wash your hair with a natural shampoo.
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