Alopecia is an umbrella term for several different types of hair loss. While there is not yet a cure for alopecia, this condition is treatable. As with most conditions, starting treatment early on helps produce the best outcomes. So, it’s important to stay alert for the various early signs of alopecia. This task begins with knowing a bit about the types, causes, and symptoms of alopecia.
In order to understand alopecia and its warning signs, it helps to know about the various types of alopecia. When doctors refer to alopecia, they’re usually talking about alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that affects hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in clumps. Individuals with alopecia areata may lose hair in different places, at different rates, and in different patterns. Most commonly, significant amounts of hair will fall from the head in round patches. If patients lose their entire head of hair, this is known as alopecia totalis. In rare cases, one might lose their body hair as well, a condition called alopecia universalis.
Aside from alopecia areata and its variations, hair loss also comes in other forms. Androgenic alopecia is the more technical term for male and female pattern baldness, which affects about half of all men by the age of 40 and half of all women by the age of 50 to varying degrees. Traction alopecia refers to hair loss due to continual friction or tension. Those who frequently wear tight hats or do their hair in braids and cornrows may suffer from this condition. Stress and illness can lead to telogen effluvium, where hair follicles are prematurely brought to their resting stages normally seen later in one’s life. Bacterial skin infections can also lead to hair loss, as in the case of folliculitis, which irritates hair follicles.
Because there are so many different types of alopecia, it can be difficult to determine what’s causing your hair loss and what to do about it. As alluded to above, alopecia causes can include genetics, autoimmune malfunction, hormones, environmental stressors, bacterial infection, and other diseases. Your specific set of alopecia symptoms may give you a hint as to what type of alopecia you have. For instance, if your hair is gradually thinning over the years, this is most likely a case of male or female pattern baldness. If, on the other hand, your hair loss is sudden and your hair falls out in patches, you may be suffering from alopecia areata or its variants.
Unfortunately, when it comes to alopecia areata, not much warning is given. You may wake up with clumps of hair on your pillow one day, or you might notice a lot of hair near your shower drain or in your comb. Before these things start happening, though, there may be few (if any) visible signs that hair loss is headed your way. While alopecia is sometimes inevitable, the best way to prevent it or mitigate its symptoms is to take good care of your hair and your skin. Avoid washing with strong chemicals; don’t apply too much heat directly to your hair via a hair straightener or dryer; stay away from hair dyes; limit your use of hats, headgear, and strenuous hairstyles; drink plenty of water and maintain a nutritious diet.
No one wants to lose their hair. While most cases of alopecia don’t pose any danger to one’s health, this condition can harm one’s self-confidence and bring about loads of emotional and physical stress. The good news is that treatment is available for just about all types of alopecia. If you notice any of the early signs of alopecia listed here, you may want to speak with your doctor or dermatologist and see if treatment is right for you. Premier Dermatology Partners is here to help you understand your alopecia and the various treatments for it. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.