Living Healthy

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.


By Team ArabiaMD

 • 3 min read • 
What is Alopecia?

Alopecia: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Alopecia, also known as alopecia areata, is an immune-mediated chronic skin disease that causes sudden hair loss. It can occur on the beard, scalp, eyebrows, body hair, and eyelashes, resulting in bald patches or bald spots. This condition can be unpredictable, with periods of normal hair growth followed by sudden hair loss.

Types of Alopecia:

There are three main types of alopecia:

  1. Alopecia totalis: Total loss of hair on the scalp, commonly referred to as baldness.
  2. Alopecia areata: Localized bald spots on the beard and scalp areas, which can lead individuals to shave or find ways to cover the patches.
  3. Alopecia Universalis: Hair loss on the scalp and body, affecting regions such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, hands, legs, etc.

Alopecia areata is the most common type of alopecia and is often the diagnosis for individuals seeking medical advice. It has different subtypes, including:

  • Diffuse alopecia areata: Sudden thinning of hair on the scalp or beard area, rather than complete hair loss.
  • Ophiasis alopecia areata: Band-shaped hair loss occurring around the back and sides of the head.

Symptoms of Alopecia:

The symptoms of alopecia include:

  • Sudden hair loss
  • Bald patches or spots on the scalp or other areas of the body
  • In some cases, complete hair loss

Causes of Alopecia:

Several factors can contribute to the development of alopecia, including:

  • Hereditary factors: Genetics play a significant role in triggering alopecia, with predictable patterns and an increased risk if there is a family history of the condition.
  • Medical conditions: Certain conditions like trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) and ringworm can cause patchy hair loss.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations due to childbirth, thyroid issues, pregnancy, and menopause can lead to temporary or permanent hair loss.
  • Medications and supplements: Certain medications for cancer, depression, gout, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart problems may cause sudden hair loss.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiotherapy sessions on the scalp may result in abnormal hair growth patterns.
  • Stress: Several months of physical or emotional shock can increase stress levels, leading to temporary hair loss.
  • Hair treatments and styles: Excessive hairstyling that involves tight pulling of the hair can cause traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments can also trigger hair loss, and scarring may result in permanent hair loss.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

To diagnose alopecia, a dermatologist will examine the affected areas of the scalp or body. They may perform a scalp biopsy or blood tests to rule out underlying medical conditions. Treatment for alopecia may include:

  • Medications
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Light therapy
  • Topical immunotherapy
  • Hair transplant surgery

However, it's important to note that there is currently no cure for alopecia.

Prevention of Alopecia:

Prevention is the best approach to managing alopecia. Some ways to prevent alopecia include:

  • Handling your hair gently
  • Consulting with your doctor for hair-friendly medication
  • Protecting your hair from sunlight and ultraviolet light
  • Quitting smoking
  • Requesting a cooling cap during chemotherapy

While there is no cure for alopecia, following these prevention methods can help reduce the risk of developing the condition. It is always advisable to consult with a dermatologist or professional for personalized advice on managing alopecia.

Hair Loss