Alopecia can occur among men, women and children
While we all lose hair everyday (losing 50-100 hairs per day is considered normal), some people will develop disorders of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, or female and male pattern hair loss. The term "alopecia' refers to hair loss, but is not a specific condition or diagnosis.
Anyone experiencing sudden or significant hair loss or hair thinning should see a dermatologist for a specialist medical diagnosis.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder and occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicle causing inflammation around the hair root. The hair root then becomes inactive and the hair falls out.
Despite the loss of hair, in cases of alopecia areata the hair follicle remains alive. It is simply waiting for the signal to be transmitted to restart the hair growth cycle.
It is thought that there is a genetic disposition to develop alopecia areata, which is consistent with its autoimmune basis. There may be a family history. Sometimes there is also a stressful event, but only in a minority of cases.
Alopecia areata is not contagious and cannot be "caught' through body contact, sharing a comb or any other means of contact.
There are usually no warning symptoms for alopecia areata, the hair simply stops growing and falls out.
Alopecia areata affects males and females equally and can develop in people of all ages, although it is most common in teenagers and young adults.
This condition most commonly occurs in people who are otherwise healthy and is not related to their general health.
In alopecia areata, the scalp is the most common area affected , but eyelashes, eyebrows, and facial hair and indeed the whole of the body may also be involved. Localised forms of alopecia areata are most common, but rarely, hair loss can be very widespread over the body.
As the hair follicle remains active in cases of alopecia it is not uncommon for the hair to start growing again on its own.
Treatments focus on stimulating hair regrowth and include:
• Oral corticosteroids tablets
• Topical lotions and creams
• Cortisone injections
• Irritants to activate the immune system
• Ultraviolet light treatment
It may also be possible to camouflage the hair loss until treatment takes effect.
Alopecia - other types
Male pattern hair loss or common balding is the most common form of alopecia. Treatments available these days include lotions and tablets, where warranted.
Similarly, many women also suffer from "female-pattern hair loss". Again, treatments include lotions and appropriate prescription oral medication, where indicated.