What is Alopecia?
Alopecia, also known as hair loss or baldness, is an autoimmune condition characterized by loss of hair from part of the head or body, but mostly it is seen affecting the head. It can be in a small patch or may affect the entire body and leads to evident stress and embarrassment. Alopecia areata affects nearly 2% of the population at some point during their lifetime.
Alopecia can be subdivided into two main categories: scarring and non-scarring. The most common type is non-scarring or androgenetic alopecia. The majority of men start to lose hair in the twenties, while women begin to lose their hair in their forties or fifties.
Men generally lose hair in the front and the temporal region, while women tend to lose hair from the central area of the scalp. Also, female hair loss will not cause complete baldness, whereas male hair loss can lead to complete baldness.
A family history of other autoimmune diseases and alopecia may act as a risk factor. Hence, genetics have a role to play in causing this disorder.
Non-scarring alopecia is classified into six major categories:
- Alopecia areata: Hair loss affects every part of the body, including the scalp, face, trunk, and extremities. When it affects only a portion of the body, it is called alopecia areata. When it affects an entire site, it is called alopecia totalis. When it involves the whole body, it is called alopecia universalis.
- Androgenetic alopecia: is a pattern of hair loss affected by the genes and hormones (androgenic).
- Telogen effluvium: results from shifting of the hair cycle growth (anagen) phase towards the shedding (telogen) phase. It may result from an illness like hypo or hyperthyroidism, from stress like major surgery.
- Traumatic alopecia: This is similar to traction alopecia, which results from forceful traction of the hair commonly seen in children. Trichotillomania is a type of traumatic alopecia in which the patient pulls on his/her hair repeatedly.
- Tinea capitis: the classical kind of tinea capitis (black-dots) causes non-scarring hair loss.
- Anagen effluvium: This is hair shedding that occurs during the anagen phase of the cell cycle.
Scarring alopecia is divided into three major types:
- Tinea capitis: the inflammatory variety of tinea capitis (favus) may culminate with scarring alopecia.
- Alopecia mucinosa: Mucinous material accumulates in the hair follicles and the sebaceous glands causing an inflammatory response that hinders the growth of hair.
- Alopecia neoplastica: This is the metastatic infiltration of the scalp hair with malignant cells.
Signs and Symptoms
In most cases hair grows back in a few months or a year or may grow back and then fall again. Hair falls out in patches and the skin underneath looks normal. Hair becomes easier to pull out along the edge of the bald patch as compared to the healthy area.
Diagnosis is mainly clinical but trichoscopy, and rarely, biopsy may also be done to confirm it.
There is no known cure for Alopecia but certain treatment options are available which can help to grow back hair quickly and prevent further hair loss.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein on request, is not to be taken as a replacement for medical advice or diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DO NOT SELF MEDICATE. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN FOR PROPER DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION.
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