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There are numerous reasons for hair loss (alopecia). At Dermatology Affiliates our providers can analyze the reasons for your hair loss and guide you to proper treatment.
What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss that results when the body’s immune system begins to attack the hair follicles. Although it can affect any part of the body, alopecia usually targets the hair on the scalp. Alopecia areata, should not be confused with the thinning of hair due to age, chemotherapy, illness, stress, or male pattern baldness. It is a disorder that affects just 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the population and takes place in both men and women. The onset of alopecia areata usually occurs in children, teenagers, and young adults, but it affects people of every age. Genetics may be a substantial factor in its development.
WHAT IS ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA?
Known as male pattern hair loss or genetic hair loss or age-related hair loss, follicles are genetically programmed to decrease in size over time producing smaller, shorter, thinner hair. Ultimately the follicles may stop producing hair at all.
WHAT IS TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM?
Usually sudden onset, significant shedding is due to a “shock” to the patient. This is common four months after childbirth and frequently happens after a high fever, sudden death in the family, or a significant accident, surgery, or hospitalization. In this case, the follicles are not damaged and hair typically regrows completely without additional treatment.
Hair Loss FAQs
A definitive cause of alopecia areata (AA) has not been determined; however, many medical experts and researchers believe that it is caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system begins to treat the body’s own hair follicles as a foreign matter. It induces the rapid shedding of the existing hair and then prevents or suppresses subsequent hair growth. Although the primary cause of alopecia appears to be an autoimmune reaction, it is unknown what actually initiates it. Alopecia does seem to occur simultaneously with other medical conditions. These conditions include:
- Thyroid disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Allergy disorders
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Not all hair loss should be associated with alopecia. Some diseases, such as thyroid disorders, can cause thinning hair and hair loss in women, and men can simply experience male pattern hair loss. Alopecia is also not a verified side effect of medicinal treatments or medicine. It may be genetic, as it tends to affect members of multiple generations in a family.
The loss of hair is the most common and obvious symptom of alopecia areata, but there are other symptoms unique to alopecia areata. These symptoms include:
- One or more circular patches of hair loss.
- Changes in the appearance of the fingernails and toenails such as miniscule dents, loss of shine, the appearance of white lines or spots, or the thinning and splitting of the nails.
- Widespread hair loss in which complete baldness occurs in a brief period of time.
- Painful or tingling sensation in the affected area.
There are several types of alopecia that are characterized by hair loss patterns. Some frequently occurring types include:
- Alopecia Areata -The most common form of alopecia, which causes patches of hair loss on the scalp.
- Diffuse Alopecia Areata -Characterized by a sudden and rapid thinning of the hair on the scalp.
- Alopecia Totalis -A rare form of alopecia characterized by a complete loss of hair on scalp and face, causing total baldness and loss of eyelashes and eyebrows.
- Alopecia Universalis – Another rare form of alopecia that results in the loss of all body hair.
- Alopecia Areata Barbe -A localized form of alopecia that is confined to the area in which a beard grows.
The hair follicles that are affected by AA produce no hair above the surface of the skin. In almost 50 percent of cases, hair growth will recur after a length of time and with no treatment. Although there is currently no cure for alopecia areata, there are treatments and regimens available that can offset its effects and symptoms, allowing the hair to grow back in 90 percent of cases. Some typical treatments for alopecia areata include:
- Oral corticosteroids to be used at the onset of the disorder, when they are most effective
- Steroid injections at the affected sites
- Rogaine® and other Minoxidil-based products
- Laser light therapy
- Shampoos and creams for the scalp containing corticoids such as clobetasol or fluocinonide
- Topical creams containing the irritant coal tar
- Oral immunosuppressive drugs, such as cyclosporine
Not all treatments are successful. A prescription of oral corticosteroid was a remedy that was administered to AA sufferers in the past. The medicine induced such a wide range of unpleasant side effects that it was determined to be an inadequate treatment for the disorder. Some AA patients choose to forgo treatment altogether and opt to allow time for the disorder to resolve itself. They may make use of headwear such as hats, scarves, caps, wigs, and other articles of headdress that can cover their heads while they live with the disorder.
There are no proven preventative mechanisms for AA. Heredity seems to be a principal factor in experiencing AA. Although there are no medical studies that prove the theory, one technique that appears to deter alopecia for some is the elimination of stress. Due to the lack of serious health risks, many suffers of AA decide to continue with their lives and let the disorder run its course.
AA patients have different degrees of hair loss and end goals, so the cost of alopecia treatment will vary with each patient. We will be able to discuss all of your treatment options as well as associated costs during your initial consultation.
Don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation so that your hair loss can be assessed and you can learn about treatments. Dermatology Affiliates is able to provide individualized care for our patients who live in or near the Atlanta and East Cobb areas, and who are seeking medical dermatology expertise. Our board-certified dermatologists and staff utilize the best technology available for our patients. Contact us today and speak with any one of our friendly and professional staff for more information or to schedule a consultation appointment.