Alopecia is the loss of hair. What triggers it can vary widely, from a chronic condition to the result of cancer treatment (chemotherapy). For many men it is hereditary and sets in at a certain age. This is called androgenic alopecia.
Alopecia areata is another type of hair loss, where patches of baldness come and go. This affects around 1 in 100 people, usually children and young adults, and often runs in the family, the NHS reports. It can sometimes lead to alopecia totalis (no hair on the head) or alopecia universalis (no hair on the head or body).
Telogem effluvium comes in the form of thinning hair, rather than baldness. This is often caused by stress or medication and can go away after a few months.
What causes it?
The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can make hair follicles overly sensitive, causing hair to become thinner and grow for less time than usual.
Problems with the immune system can sometimes be to blame. Although hair loss occurs, it can often be stopped a few months down the line when the core problem has been dealt with.
Stress can also set off the condition, as can fungal infections and anaemia (a blood disorder).
Other causes, according to Patient UK, include:
- Thyroid disease
- Collagen disease
What are the symptoms?
Male-pattern baldness is called so because it follows a pattern. The onset of balding usually occurs in the late twenties or thirties and begins with a receding hairline. With time, hair begins to thin around the crown, eventually forming a horseshoe shape. Complete baldness is rare.
Alopecia areata comes in the form of bald patches. These can appear on the head or any other part of the body (including the face). There may also be a burning sensation, according to Patient UK, and most sufferers have a single lesion around the affected area. Hair lost this way usually grows back with time.
How is it treated?
In some cases, underlying illnesses determine whether or not hair loss can be treated. Stress can often be overcome through therapy, for example, and hair will eventually grow back.
Male-pattern baldness can be treated with two different types of medication:
- Finasteride – this works by stopping the hormone testosterone being converted to the hormone DHT, which can cause hair follicles to weaken.
- Minoxidil – this is a lotion which is rubbed on the scalp every day. Research has shown that it can slow hair loss and even encourage hair regrowth.
There is no completely effective treatment for alopecia areata, but in 8 out of 10 cases hair grows back on its own within a year, according to the NHS.
However, a variety of treatments is available, including:
- Immunotherapy – this is one of the most effective. A chemical solution called diphencyprone is applied to the skin regularly, eventually triggering a skin reaction. Hair usually begins to grow back 3 months later.
- Steroid injections – these are most effective on small patches
- Topical and oral steroids.
- UV light treatment – this can take up to a year to work and the negative side effects often outweigh the benefits.
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