Noticing Patches of Lost Hair?
You may be experiencing the symptoms of alopecia.
For those experiencing new, sudden concentrations of hair loss on their scalp or beard, you may be watching alopecia develop before your eyes.
What Causes Alopecia?
In short, it “depends”. The causes of alopecia are frequently debated by scientists, especially since one type of alopecia differs so greatly from the next. Before you read on, don’t confuse alopecia with trichotillomania, which is a condition associated with stress-picking hair. This act can permanently damage follicles, and while it can regrow, chronic pulling can lead to an irreversible decrease in hair density in the area.
Types of Alopecia
There are many types of alopecia, some in locations due to physical scalp stress (like wearing hair in a tight style), full body hair loss, or head-focussed hair loss. While it’s uncommonly known, typical hair loss is a type of alopecia among both men and women, known as androgenetic alopecia. For men, this type of alopecia manifests by hair thinning at the top of the scalp, noticeable as patches of hair become significantly less dense. This can also be seen as diminishing hair at the front of the scalp (otherwise known as a receding hairline).
Others may experience alopecia areata, which primarily affects hair follicles. It can be caused by a number of ailments, including autoimmune diseases like lupus, vitiligo, thyroid disease, type-1 diabetes, and colitis. Those with this form of alopecia frequently experience white patches of hair which lead to bald spots. It’s important to note, however, that not all alopecia areata is caused by disease, as it can also be brought on by stress.
In men, a typical form of alopecia areata is known as alopecia barbae. In this case, men with beards experience patches of hair loss on their facial hair.
Why Does One Get Alopecia?
Unfortunately, genes play a major role in determining who gets alopecia. Because our genes are derived from those of both our mother and father, either party can contribute to the passing of an alopecia-causing DNA strand. These genes predetermine our hair density, but lifestyle factors can also determine just how much hair is lost. Those who are overweight or lead an unhealthy, stressful lifestyle can significantly increase their total hair loss, or increase the rate in which they lose their hair because these poor behaviors age the body biologically.
It’s important to note, however, that a relative with these autoimmune diseases doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll have alopecia. If a close relative does have alopecia, it can just as easily skip you, OR, if neither of your parents has alopecia, and older family member’s genes in the family gene tree could skip them and impact you.
Can Alopecia Be Prevented or Reversed?
The prevention or treatment of alopecia depends on the type you have, but it can be managed. Androgenetic alopecia can be slowed with the use of prescription pills, topical hair treatments that promote hair growth and leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
Alopecia areata is harder to predict and because of this, it’s harder to prevent or reverse. Various procedures can revive a weak hair follicle and stimulate new hair growth, but they will work best when recommended by a knowledgeable dermatologist. Expect treatment options like steroid injections, cortisone prescriptions, or steroid creams.
For those that experience successful treatment, some hairs that were previously shrinking can return to a state similar to their original density.