Alopecia, also known as hair loss, is the loss of hair from the head or body. This includes baldness, or pattern alopecia. Other causes of hair losses include the compulsive pulling of hair, a condition called Trichotillomania, an iron deficiency, or certain common hairstyles such as ponytails and braids.
Hot hair irons and “hair relaxer” solutions have also been linked to hair loss. When the hair loss is patchy it is referred to as alopecia areata, and if left untreated it can progress into total hair loss of the area, or alopecia totalis. Complete hair loss is known as alopecia univesalis.
Causes of Alopecia (hair loss)
Common causes of alopecia area: dissecting cellulitis, fungal infections, hair treatments, hormonal changes, hereditary disorders, hyper and hypo thyroidism, Iron deficiency, Lupus, scalp infections, and as a side effect of drugs or treatments such as chemotherapy.
Many men (and women) experience hereditary hair loss as they age. This is not at all uncommon and can be linked directly back to genetic factors. There is generally a distinction between hereditary hair loss and acute, pathogen driven hair loss.
Treatments for hair loss
There are currently a wide variety of treatments and solutions for hair loss on the market, some of which are much more effective than others. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a non prescription medication that comes in a liquid or foam and is rubbed onto the scalp twice daily.
While this is the most effective method of treating male and female pattern baldness, only approximately 40% of users see hair growth, which can take eight months to a year. Additionally, this is not a permanent solution as it must be continuously used lest hair loss resume.
Propecia is a once daily pill that promises to combat male pattern baldness. It takes approximately as long as Rogaine (up to 8 months) and will cease to provide results when discontinued. Side effects can include decreased libido and sexual dysfunction.
Corticosteroids come either in pill form or as direct injections into the scalp on a monthly basis. Results, if they appear, take approximately a month to materialize.
For female pattern hair loss, hormonal modulators such as spironolactone or oral contraceptives can be taken.
For individuals who are extremely troubled by their hair loss, there are surgical options that can be both expensive and painful. Scarring and infection are both possible during through these procedures, and the quality of the results can take approximately six to eight months to assess. A hair transplant is when a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist transfers small plugs of skin into the targeted bald sections.
Several of these transplants may be necessary and can be extremely painful. Alternatively, a scalp reduction can be performed (though it is often used in conjunction with a hair transplant), which seeks to decrease the bald area by removing some of the bald areas altogether. Scalp reduction is also performed to attempt to simulate a more natural looking hair line.
The final and perhaps safest (and easiest) option is a wig or hairpiece. Many quality hairpieces exist, some of which are even made of real human hair.