Alopecia is a condition, known more commonly as baldness or hair loss, that involves loss of hair from either a portion of the head and possibly extending to even more of the subject's body. The severity of this condition can range from a tiny little spot to the entirety of a person's body, often without any sort of inflammation or scarring as a consequence. The clinical term is taken from and old Greek word for fox. That word is alopex. Since the fox would shed a coat twice per year, it seemed an appropriate word to describe hair loss. Foxes could also get mange, losing more hair. Beyond the aesthetic deficiency that a patient suffers from missing hair, the condition has been known to have detrimental effects on a person's psychological health. Some people may be so embarrassed that they may not leave their homes without at least concealing their scalp.
Causes of Alopecia
There are several possible causes for this medical condition.
- "Male-pattern hair loss" is considered to be an amalgamated condition derived from a mixture of genetic factors and dihydrotestosterone levels.
- Certain bacterial or fungal infections.
- Demodex folliculitis is caused by a microscopic species of mite that loves the taste of sebum generated by the sebaceous glands. This condition stops hair from receiving nutrients, contributing to thinning out. The mite is most often encountered in scalps with a high level of oiliness.
- Secondary syphilis.
- Several types of medications, including many used for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Anything that modifies the hormonal balance of the human body is a potential trigger.
- Certain solutions for fungal infections.
- Trauma from forcefully pulling on ponytailed or cornrowed hair, as well as rigorously brushing and heat-treating hair.
- Chemotherapy and radiation directed at the scalp.
- The postpartum stage after delivering a child.
- Autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata, alopecia areata universalis, and alopecia totalis.
Signs of Alopecia and How It Presents Itself
The signs and symptoms of alopecia can include patches of lost hair, often in a circular pattern, dandruff, skin lesions and even scarring. Mild to medium cases of alopecia areata will result in hair loss in spots other than those that are normally associated with male-pattern baldness, such as the eyebrows, back of the head, and above the ears. With male-pattern forms of alopecia, the loss and thinning of hair begin around the temples and crown, whereas female-pattern alopecia's hair loss starts to happen around the frontal and parietal regions.
Often, the first sign of hair loss will manifest when more hairs are found along the teeth of a hairbrush or comb after a grooming session or around the drain of a tub or shower after a shampooing session. Thinning of the hair may also be noticed during a styling session, revealing wide parts in the person's hairline.
There are several ways of dealing with hair loss, partly dependent upon whether the loss is occurring.
- Head - The most basic, albeit temporary, approach is for a person to restyle their remaining hair over the balding spot. As hair loss becomes exacerbated, the comb-over becomes less and less useful. Other approaches would be a hat or hairpiece.
- Eyebrows - Eyebrows can sometimes lose hair due to hypothyroidism but this can be mitigated with artificial eyebrows or embroidering the eyebrow with a blade and pigment. While embroidering is viable for around two years, a permanent solution exists by tattooing makeup over the bald regions.
- Medications - Only three medications have been proven effective against alopecia, but only by stopping the loss of additional hair. Hormonal modulators can be used to counteract female-pattern hair loss.
- Surgery - A hair transplant involves the transfer of healthy hair to the scalp. The process may require multiple sessions, depending on the patient's desired hair thickness. Hair implants involve inserting tiny skin plugs, seeded with several hairs taken from the scalp, and inserted into the bald sections.