Alopecia is the loss of hair. Hair loss can be caused by different reasons, including damage to the hair shaft or follicles. Fungal infections can also cause hair loss.
There are two main types of alopecia: Alopecia Areata, when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes hair to fall out (often in patches all over the body), and androgenetic alopecia, an inherited condition where hair on the head thins and falls out. In men, this is called male pattern hair loss; in women, it is called female diffuse hair loss.
About 60% of people with androgenetic alopecia are men. Hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia is permanent.
Symptoms of alopecia may include:
Causes may include:
Your doctor can usually diagnose androgenetic alopecia by examining you and taking a medical history. If your health care provider suspects alopecia areata, the provider may order a fluorescent antinuclear antibody (FNA) test, which can help determine if there is a problem with your immune system.
Treatment depends on the type of alopecia you have. With many temporary forms of alopecia, hair will grow back without treatment. For people with alopecia areata, medications may help reduce hair loss. Some men with male pattern hair loss may consider surgery, such as hair transplants, scalp reduction, and strip or flap grafts.
For male pattern hair loss:
In the case of both medications, if you stop using the drug, your hair will fall out again. If you use these medications, your health care provider should monitor you for side effects.
For female diffuse hair loss:
For alopecia areata:
Surgical options include hair transplants, scalp reduction, and strip or flap grafts.
These therapies have only slight success in treating male pattern baldness.
For alopecia areata
For androgenetic alopecia
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs only under the supervision of a provider.
For androgenetic alopecia
For alopecia areata
Therapeutic massage increases circulation (helping bring more blood to the scalp) and reduces stress. Scalp massage using essential oils of rosemary, lavender, thyme, and cedarwood may help increase circulation (see Herbs).
Some men using finasteride (Propecia) may have a decreased sex drive or trouble getting an erection. There also appears to be a relationship between vertex pattern androgenic alopecia and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Speak with your doctor.
If you are pregnant, wait to treat alopecia until after your baby is born.
Studies show that alopecia may impact quality of life. Other studies suggest alopecia may be correlated with certain disease processes, including prostate cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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