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What is Alopecia?

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia, also referred to as alopecia areata, is an immune-mediated chronic skin disease characterized by sudden hair loss on the beard, scalp, eyebrows, body hair, and eyelashes. It can also be referred to as bald patches or bald spots. This is a very unpredictable patchy hair condition as your hair growth can stabilize and become normal once more and relapse to suddenly falling out again.


Types of Alopecia

There are three main types of alopecia conditions, namely;

       i.         Alopecia totalis - This is typically what people call baldness as it is the total loss of hair on the scalp.

     ii.         Alopecia areata - This is more of a mild condition as it is associated with localized bald spots on the beard and scalp areas. They often leave an individual looking weird, and they opt to either shave completely or find means to cover up the bald patches.

    iii.         Alopecia Universalis - This type of alopecia is characterized by hair loss on the scalp and body. This means you'd lose hair in regions other than your beard and scalp. Often involves the eyebrows and eyelashes, hand and legs, etc.

Alopecia areata is the most common alopecia condition, and it's what many individuals are diagnosed with upon visiting a specialist. There are different types of this condition, and they include;

·       Diffuse alopecia areata - This is the sudden hair thinning on your scalp or beard area rather than hair loss. The amount of hair and health of the hair in the area depreciates.

·       Ophiasis alopecia areata - This is the loss of hair in band shapes that occurs around the back and sides of the head.

Symptoms of Alopecia

The main and, in most cases, the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. However, similar and other symptoms as recorded by alopecia specialists include;

a.     Tiny bald patches on your body, including scalp and beard area.

b.     Sudden growing back of hair on one spot and immediate loss of hair on another spot.

c.     Intense hair loss during cold weather.

d.     Extensive growth of patches to complete baldness.

e.     A lot of hair loss in a short timeline.

f.      Brittle, pitted, and red fingernails and toenails.

g.     Burning and itching on the hair loss area.

h.     The nails become thin & rough, split, and pinpoint dents appear.


Causes of Alopecia

We all lose 50 to 100 hairs daily. However, we don't notice this because hair immediately grows back in areas where hair loss occurs. However, this is not usually the case with alopecia patients, as they don't get to replace the hair lost. Some of the causes of alopecia include

§  Hereditary factors - Genetics play a significant role in triggering alopecia. However, this is often noticed with age as it doesn't occur in childhood unless in rate cases. If your family has a history of alopecia, you are more likely to get the condition from them. This condition occurs gradually, and it has predictable patterns. It can be as simple as a descending hairline to a crown on your scalp.

§  Medical conditions - Certain medical conditions affect your immune system causing patchy hair losses and infections. Some scalp infections include hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania) and ringworms.

§  Hormonal changes - Hormonal changes resulting from childbirth, thyroid problems, pregnancy, and menopause can trigger temporary or permanent hair loss.

§  Supplements and medication - Certain medications such as those for cancer, depression, gout, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart problems can cause sudden loss of hair.

§  Radiation therapy - Radiotherapy sessions on your scalp might cause an abnormal hair growth pattern.

§  Stress - Several months of physical or emotional shock trigger a hike in the stress levels, which might temporarily cause hair loss.

§  Hair treatments and styles - Excessive hairstyling that involves tightly pulling your hair can cause traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments can trigger hair loss, and if scarring occurs, you are looking at permanent hair loss.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It's pretty simple for specialists to diagnose alopecia by checking for the related symptoms. They would typically look to examine the lost hair under a microscope or check for the degree of hair loss. A skin biopsy is always an ultimate diagnosis option if they don't get satisfying results from what they initially gathered. A blood test is also an option to rule out any other autoimmune diseases.

Alopecia cannot be cured. However, the condition can be controlled, and hair can always grow back in the affected region. There are several tried and tested treatment methods that have worked for different people. Some of the treatments of alopecia include;

1.     Corticosteroids - These anti-inflammatory drugs are steroids prescribed to trigger hair growth in the affected regions. They can be administered as an injection, cream, ointment, or foam. However, this method might take longer to work.

2.     Tropical immunotherapy - This form of therapy involves an application of chemicals to an affected region, often where hair loss has happened more than once. The reaction causes hair to grow, but there can be notable side effects, such as itching rashes on the affected spot.

3.     Rogaine - Also known as minoxidil this treatment method is used for pattern baldness. It takes about 12 weeks for it to work, which is a significant turn-off for many patients.


How to Prevent Alopecia

Prevention of alopecia is the best "cure" for this condition. This saves you the hassle of finding alternatives to control hair loss, and it's also the cheapest method available for the situation. The different ways of preventing alopecia include;

·       Handling your hair gently

·       Consult your doctor for hair-friendly medication

·       Protect your hair against sunlight and other ultraviolet light

·       Quit smoking

·       Request for a cooling cap if you're undergoing chemotherapy.

Alopecia is a hair loss condition that has no cure. Although there isn't much you can do if you've got the genes, there are other methods of prevention that you can watch out for to avoid the condition. You can always and consult with a professional for top-notch advice on how to handle such a situation.

Reach out to ArabiaMD for any alopecia queries.

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