What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a general term and includes all types of hair loss: across hair and body in men, women and children.

Androgenetic alopecia – is the scientific name for male and female pattern baldness and probably the condition most identified with hair loss, especially in men.

Alopecia areata (AA) – is typical of small sudden patches of hair loss that can occur on the scalp or body, which can progress to alopecia totalis, complete baldness in the affected area, if left untreated.

Alopecia universalis – is a more severe case, with complete hair loss from the entire body, face and scalp – though only in rare cases.

Telogen effluvium (TE) – Less well known but still common, this type of Alopecia is characterised by wide-spread thinning of the hair on the scalp.

It’s important to understand which type of hair loss you are experiencing in order to get the most appropriate treatment.

Causes of alopecia

Alopecia in its many forms can be caused by various factors, from genetics to the environment. Pattern baldness is the most common form of hair loss. For more information on causes and treatments, see the sections on Hair Loss in Men and Hair Loss in Women.

TE is caused by a change in the number of follicles actively growing hair due to an incredibly varied number of factors, including physical trauma and chronic stress.

Many people, including dermatologists, consider AA to be a stress-induced disease, despite minimal research to support this view. The underlying causes are complex and are thought to have a significant genetic contribution, in addition to hormones, allergies, viruses and toxins.

Available treatments

Treatment for TE depends on what’s triggered it. For short-term TE it’s often advised to wait for hair to return, or for persistent TE to remove the causal factor if it can be identified. If the cause isn’t known then Minoxidil is often prescribed as a direct hair growth stimulator.

AA has a range of treatments, however none are effective in all cases and some individuals don’t respond to any medication at all. Corticosteroid creams are often used to treat mild cases, while injections are considered to be effective. Despite not being specifically licensed for AA Minoxidil lotion is often used as a treatment. Additional treatments include immunotherapy, dithranol cream and ultraviolet light.


Guide to Alopecia Areata and Treatments

The Science of Hair Loss/Balding

Causes of Alopecia, Thinning Hair & Baldness
hair loss men womenHair Loss: Men vs Women

What is Alopecia? by Dr Tony Steele (Index Medical Ltd) ().