Everyone loses hair. In fact, it’s natural to lose approximately 50 to 150 hairs every day. However, hair loss of more than 150 hairs per day can indicate a condition known as alopecia – excessive or abnormal hair loss. Alopecia is generally characterized by a sudden loss of patches of hair, general hair thinning or a receding hairline. Although hair loss is associated mainly with men, roughly half of all women over age 40 experience excessive hair loss. Read on to learn about the different types of alopecia and how we can treat them.
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, which is where hair growth begins. This skin condition is usually diagnosed when clumps of hair fall out, resulting in totally smooth, round hairless patches on the scalp. In some cases, the hair may become thinner with noticeable patches of baldness, or it may grow and break off, leaving short stubs. In all forms of this condition, the hair follicles remain alive and ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. Hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and after many years. The most common treatment for this patchy hair loss is injections of corticosteroids into the scalp every four to six weeks. Children and some adults may be treated with topical corticosteroids applied directly to the skin. Some people choose not to treat this condition, since hair usually grows back within a year.
The most common type of hair loss from the scalp is androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness. Androgenetic alopecia accounts for 95 percent of all cases of head-only hair loss and results when hair follicles become sensitive to the hormone androgen. This condition is hereditary, so having a family history of androgenetic alopecia increases your risk of developing it and influences the age at which hair loss begins, the speed at which it occurs, its pattern and extent. However, family history is not always a factor: research has shown about 12 percent of people with this type of hair loss have no trace of it in their family trees. Androgenetic alopecia is permanent and continues with aging. Early stages of hair loss can be slowed or reversed with medication, and more advanced cases can be treated with hair transplantation.
This type of hair loss occurs when the body goes through a traumatic event such as child birth, extreme stress, major surgery, malnutrition, or severe infection. This condition can be difficult to diagnose, as hair loss is not always immediate. Hair can begin to shed six weeks to three months after the traumatic event. It is possible to lose handfuls of hair at a time during this period, but hair growth eventually returns to normal.
This condition is caused by localized trauma to the hair follicles from tight hairstyles that pull at hair over time. If the condition is detected early enough, the hair will regrow. Braiding, cornrows, extensions and tight ponytails are the most common styling causes of traction alopecia.
All of these conditions are diagnosed through a medical history and physical examination. The dermatologist will ask questions about hair loss, determine the pattern of hair loss and examine the scalp. Certain tests, such as a hair analysis or blood tests, can help diagnose the condition. Traction alopecia can also be caused by a short-term event such as stress, disease or medication, which can alter the hair growth and shedding phases.
If you think you may be experiencing excessive hair loss, avoid brushing or teasing your hair and use a wide-toothed comb. Dr. Miller has had years of experience diagnosing and treating hair loss. To make an appointment with us, please call Greenville Dermatology today at (864) 242-5872.