Alopecia Awareness, Diagnosis, Treatment and Everything In Between
A lot of people might have heard of alopecia, but not everyone would know what it actually is and how it is diagnosed and treated. As a matter of fact, there would be a lot of people who would not even know that there are various types of alopecia. This article attempts to look at alopecia and all the aspects associated with it. With a series of basic questions, we will attempt to answer some of the most important queries related to this hair condition.
The very first and most obvious question would be what exactly is Alopecia?
In the simplest of terms, alopecia is hair loss or baldness, wherein there is hair loss from the head or even other parts of the body. It is important to note that alopecia is not just about hair loss, but also the lack of hair growth. The degree of hair loss or the lack of hair growth will help decide which type of alopecia it is.
The next question would be what are the types of alopecia?
There are several other types, most of which are described below:
- Androgenetic alopecia: This is the most common type of hair loss and is often referred to as male or female pattern hair loss. The condition is also referred to as AGA. The condition is often caused due to genes or hormones, which means that both men and women can be affected by the same. Studies have shown that 95% men who have hair loss related issues have this condition. What is even more interesting is that even women suffer from this condition, however, their condition can be brought upon due to factors such as birth control pills, pregnancy, ovarian cysts and menopause.
- Alopecia totalis: Considered to be an autoimmune condition, alopecia totalis can lead to the complete loss of hair on the head. As is the case with androgenetic alopecia, there are no patches of hair remaining in this condition. The reasons for this condition are still slightly unclear.
- Alopecia universalis: In this condition, there is complete loss of hair, but this condition affects every part of the body. This means that someone who suffers from this condition, will not have hair on any part of the body. This again is thought to be an autoimmune condition.
- Alopecia areata: This autoimmune condition leads to hair loss from various parts of the body, including the head. People suffering from this condition will notice the appearance of small patches, which seem smooth and without any scars. These patches can be multiple and appear one by one, over a period of time.
- Scarring alopecia: This condition is caused by inflammation, which could range from burns or injury to bacterial infection or ringworms. These can cause permanent damage to the follicles and leads to loss of hair and a permanent scar.
- effluvium:The medications used to treat cancer are really strong and they can cause hair loss. In the beginning, there are bald patches that start to appear, and then it moves onto complete hair loss. However, this type of hair loss is not permanent, and when the medications are stopped, the hair does grow back. There are certain other medications too which can cause this condition.
- Telogen effluvium: This is another type of hair loss, in which the hair loss is more than that which would be considered normal. This condition is more like a thinning of hair, and like anagen effluvium, the hair loss is only temporary and the hair will eventually grow back.
- Diffuse Patterned Alopecia (DPA) & Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA): Both these conditions are similar in nature, but have different manners of infestation. For instance, in diffuse patterned alopecia, which is an androgenetic type of alopecia, there is diffused thinning in conjunction to the stable permanent zone of hair loss. This includes the frontal part, the top as well as the vertex of the scalp. However, in diffuse unpatterned alopecia, there is no stable permanent zone, even though this too is androgenic in nature.
- Traction alopecia: When you tie your hair too tightly or braid it by pulling the hair too much, you are inviting trouble and hair loss.
Such hair styles tend to tug on the roots of the hair and when the roots become loose, there is bound to be breakage. When this condition is stretched over a period of time, it can even hinder the development of new hair follicles and eventually cause permanent loss of hair.
- Alopecia barbae: This is one condition that is restricted to men, because the loss of hair is mainly on the face, more specifically in the beard area.
- Alopecia mucinosa: In this condition, the alopecia leads to patches that are almost scaly in appearance.
- How is the condition diagnosed?
The conditions are normally diagnosed by means of a proper physical examination, in addition to looking through the medical history. The doctor might ask several questions, including family history of hair loss, lifestyle and factors causing stress. The doctor might even pull at a few strands of hair and take them out to look at the follicles. There is the chance that the doctor might do a few tests, including blood tests to check the thyroid levels and hair analysis. In severe cases, the doctor might take a small portion of your scalp to test the same minutely.
Can the condition be treated and if yes, then how?
While the treatment for each type of alopecia might vary and some of them are untreatable, the general course of treatment will be pretty much the same. For instance, the doctor will prescribe corticosteroids, which will be given in the form of injections, which are meant to supress the immune system.
There are several other medications such as Minoxidil and anthralin, which are also used to help with alopecia. While Minoxidil can assist with hair regrowth, anthralin alters the immune function of the skin.
In the more severe cases, doctors might ask you to wear a hair piece of go in for a restoration process. There are also hair care products which can help with the appearance of hair, allowing the same to look thicker. You could also consider products which will colour the scalp. In certain cases, psoralen with ultraviolet a light or PUVA therapy can be used. In this type of treatment, a medication called psoralen is applied on the skin, and then with the help of UV light, the skin is treated.