Hair loss, medically known as Alopecia, takes many forms and variations and is believed to have several causes; heredity, stress, hormones, poor nutrition, etc. Many prescription medications, in addition to the chemotherapy and radiation therapy drugs used in cancer treatment, can also lead to hair loss.
Androgenetic Alopecia, most commonly known as male pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss and baldness. The gene for this form of baldness, carried on the human X chromosome, is hereditary through the maternal line. Hereditary and hormone (androgen) related, it affects men much more frequently (more than 95% of male hair loss) than it does women. In females pattern baldness is often triggered by the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, menopause, ovarian cysts and/or high androgen index birth control treatment and may reverse itself when the source of hormonal stress is ended. While male pattern baldness normally results in a receding hairline that frequently ends in complete crown balding, female pattern baldness is normally evidenced by a patterned thinning of hair.
Telogen Effluvium, the second most common form of head hair loss seen by dermatologists, generally presents as an acute thinning or shedding of head hair due to emotional or physiological stress or disease; childbirth, hormonal problems, surgery, eating disorders and many others. This form of hair loss normally reverses itself as the source of stress subsides or disappears. A variation, Alopecia Mucinosa, presents as flat patches or ‘plaques’ of hairlessness on the face or scalp.
On the other hand, Alopecia Totalis, the complete loss of head hair, and Alopecia Universalis, the complete and rapid loss of body hair, are generally believed to be autoimmune in nature. Autoimmune diseases, which can be loosely defined as a body having an allergic reaction to itself, come in many forms most often affecting skin, hair and joints. In the case of Alopecia it is believed that the body’s lymphocytes (white blood cells) attack the hair follicles, mistakenly believing them to be harmful. Alopecia Areata, also one of the most common forms of hair loss seen by dermatologists, shows itself as round patches of head hair loss, is also believed to be autoimmune in nature. It is estimated to effect approximately 2% of the human population at some time in their life. A variation, known as Scarring Alopecia is caused by damage to the hair cells resulting in the death of hair follicles and a resulting scarring of the skin above.
Another common form of Alopecia seen by physicians is called Traction Alopecia. This form of hair loss is the result of the regular use of braids, rubber bands or barrettes in the hair. It is caused by the regular and sustained pulling of the hair by these devices and hair styles. This type of hair loss is usually reversible following the discontinuing of use of braids or other hair care devices.
A less common form of hair loss, related to stress and anxiety is Trichotillomania and is the result of chronic hair pulling. Although the hair loss is usually reversible following the discontinuation of this hair pulling behavior, it often takes some form of mental health treatment to relieve the emotional reasons behind it.
Poor nutrition, anemia and malnutrition can also result in hair loss. These conditions can be the result of many factors; disease, poor eating habits, substance abuse, etc. Hair loss from these sources can frequently be reversed with time and improved nutrition.
Many commonly prescribed medications can also lead to varying degrees of hair loss. Some of these types of medications are used to treat acne, cholesterol, glaucoma, blood problems, depression, and many, many others. Although not commonly mentioned by physicians, this potential side effect is listed in the documentation that comes with these medications.
Alopecia, as described above, can be chronic or permanent and is sometimes transitory depending on its root cause. Modern medical science has many treatments available that can reverse, or even disguise, hair loss. Traditional medicine from various parts of the world also provide treatments of varying reliability.
If you suffer from hair loss you can definitely benefit from a visit to a dermatologist who can, through examination and tests, explain to you the reasons behind your hair loss and what treatments or means are available to help the situation.