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Alopecia – causes, types, treatment

Alopecia, or excessive hair loss, can take many forms and may have various causes. Not all hair loss has to mean baldness. If you are concerned about the condition of your hair, see your GP or dermatologist. In this article you will learn about the types of alopecia, how it manifests itself and how to treat it.

What is Alopecia?

Let’s start with the definition itself. Alopecia is a condition where hair on the head or body falls out in greater amounts than normal. It is assumed that we lose about 100 hairs every day. If you’ve noticed more hair loss, it could be baldness.

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The reasons

Various factors can be responsible for baldness. These include, among others:

  • genetics
  • hormones
  • diseases
  • age
  • sex

Men go bald more often than women. Of course, age plays a huge role, as our hair weakens and falls out with age. But it often happens that middle-aged or younger men are also bald. Most of these accidents are influenced by genetics. If you have hormonal problems (e.g. a sick thyroid gland), you may also experience excessive hair loss. Some diseases and medications can also affect the condition of your hair.

The mechanism of hair loss

The life time of the hair is from 2 to even 7 years. During this time, they go through three development phases:

  • anagen – intensive growth phase (1-4 years)
  • catagen – transitional phase (about 3 weeks)
  • telogen – rest phase, hair no longer grows (3 months)

Each hair has its own life, regardless of the others. Each of them goes through the phases at its own pace.

When the hair reaches its final phase, it begins to fall out slowly and a new anagen phase begins for the new hair. New hair grows out of the same hair follicles. It’s important to brush your hair gently so as not to tear it off the roots.

Alopecia types

There are several types of baldness. Each has different symptoms. We distinguish baldness:

  • androgenic
  • plaque
  • scarring
  • postpartum
  • traction
  • beards
  • telogen
  • frontal fibrosis
  • Androgenetic alopecia

It can occur in both men (male pattern baldness) and women (female type).

Symptoms → In men, alopecia initially appears on both sides of the temples. After a while, the hairline recedes and forms a specific M-shape. Hair also falls out on the top of the head and may cause partial or complete alopecia. Androgenic alopecia in women is different. The hair is thin and weak, but the hairline remains the same.

Causes → Diseases are the main cause. In men, these may be, for example: coronary heart disease, prostate disease, diabetes, overweight, hypertension. There may also be a genetic cause. In women, polycystic ovary syndrome is a common cause.

In men, too high a concentration of androgenic hormones is mainly blamed, which penetrate the hair follicles and are responsible for weaker and thin hair as well as its shorter life.

Alopecia areata

This type of alopecia may be most common on the head, but it can affect different parts of the body. It can occur at any age, but most cases occur in adolescence and early adulthood.

Symptoms → Hair falls out in small clusters to form coin-sized bald patches. Hair falls out for a few weeks and grows back after a few months. People with alopecia areata also have dimples on their nails.

Causes → It is impossible to clearly define the cause as it is a bundle of factors. The immune system plays an important role, and genetics to a lesser extent. The immune system attacks the hair follicles, which stops the hair growth, but does not completely destroy it, and the hair can grow back. Given genetics, it may be linked to other diseases such as vitiligo, lupus, atopic dermatitis, thyroid disease. Stress can also be a trigger.

Scarring alopecia

It is a type of permanent hair loss with no possibility of its regrowth.

Symptoms → hair falls out in clumps. After hair loss, the skin is shiny, with no visible bulbs.

Causes → The etiology is diverse. It can be due to genetics and inflammation. The genetic background is associated with other conditions, for example: Darier’s disease, psoriasis. This variant may also result from the action of radiation (e.g. radiotherapy) or from infectious diseases (shingles, boils).

Postpartum alopecia

It occurs in women about 3 months after giving birth.

Symptoms → This type manifests itself in large amounts of hair loss. Hair becomes weak, brittle and dull.

Causes → Hormonal changes are the main cause. During pregnancy, due to the high estrogen, hair is only in the growth phase, which makes it thick and abundant. After giving birth, the amount of the hormone drops significantly, the hair returns to 3 phases and falls out strongly.

Treatment

Various shampoos, lotions and foams are used in the treatment. The doctor may also prescribe oral preparations based on the active substances – finasteril (male type) and minoxidil (male and female type). Most cosmetic products also contain these substances.

In more severe cases, a hair transplant can be performed.

It’s always a good idea to consult a doctor.

Diet

An important element in maintaining healthy hair is a proper diet. It should be rich in vitamin D, B vitamins and vitamin E. GLA and ALA are an important component in the prevention of treatment.

Examples of products:

  • nuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • soy
  • fishes
  • borage
  • beef
  • lamb
  • broccoli
  • carrot

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