Alopecia (Hair Loss) Patient Education
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, which may include gradual thinning of hair, bald patches, or complete baldness. The different types of hair loss are caused by different contributing factors.
Hereditary hair loss
- This is the most common type of hair loss, affecting 80 million men and women in the United States.
- The loss of hair is gradual and becomes more noticeable with each passing year.
- There may be a receding hair line, bald patches, thinning patches, or overall thinning.
- This type includes male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness.
- In this type, the hair loss begins suddenly.
- Smooth, round patches of hair loss appear on the scalp and other areas of the body, including eyebrows and eyelashes.
- This type of hair loss results from an autoimmune disease, meaning that body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles.
- An estimated 2% of Americans will have alopecia areata at some point during their lives.
- This type of hair loss results from styling hair in ways that continually pull on the roots of the hair (such as very tight braids, cornrows or ponytails).
Cicatricial (scarring) alopecia
- In this type of hair loss, the hair follicles are destroyed and scar tissue forms over the follicle area, so the hair cannot re-grow.
Temporary hair loss
- Many cases of hair loss are temporary. The hair will grow back with time or when the underlying problem causing the hair loss is corrected, such as:
- Underling illness, such as thyroid disease, anemia, kidney or liver disease, and autoimmune disorders
- After major surgery
- After a high fever, severe infection, ringworm infection, or even the flu
- After radiation therapy and chemotherapy
- After childbirth or during menopause
- Emotional or psychological stress
- Weight loss
- Too much vitamin A
- Not enough protein or iron
- Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
- Certain medications (i.e. blood thinners, birth control pills, anabolic steroids, and medications for arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems, and high blood pressure)
- Overuse of hair care products, such as hair bleaches, permanents, dyes, gels, relaxers, flat irons, and hair sprays