Alopecia Hair Loss
Alopecia hair loss is a common problem affecting around one in five Australians and is most common in men. Alopecia presents in various forms and can be the first symptom of a systemic illness. In most cases, however, loss of hair is hereditary and a normal part of ageing. This page looks at hair loss, alopecia symptoms and causes, the different types of hair loss, and effective hair loss treatment options for hair regrowth.
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What Is Alopecia?
Hair loss (alopecia) refers to the slowing rate of hair growth, hair thinning, excessive hair shedding, or the inability to replace lost hair.
Symptoms of Alopecia
The appearance of hair loss depends on the cause, and it can present as scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or full body hair loss (alopecia universalis). The onset of hair loss can be sudden or gradual, with symptoms that include:
- Loss of hair on top of the head
- Hair follicle loosening, making the hair easy to pull out
- Full-body hair loss during medical treatment, such as chemotherapy
- Formation of circular bald spots, which may be painful or itchy
Persistent hair loss can affect your appearance and may indicate an underlying illness. If you are not taking any medications or receiving treatment that may result in hair loss or scalp irritation, schedule a consultation with our hair loss specialist, who will do blood tests and a scalp biopsy to determine the cause.
Causes of Alopecia
Various factors can cause alopecia, including:
- Hereditary conditions, such as androgenic alopecia
- Hormonal changes due to thyroid disease, pregnancy, and menopause
- Physiological and psychological conditions, such as scalp infection and trichotillomania
- Medications, including warfarin, atorvastatin, and amiodarone
- Emotional or physical shock due to a stressful event
- Radiation therapy
- Unhealthy hair treatments or the use of unregulated hair products
The cause of hair loss determines the type of alopecia and appropriate treatment.
Types of Alopecia
Before recommending treatment options, a hair loss specialist has to determine the type of hair loss, based on the symptoms, possible causes, and results from blood tests.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the white blood cells, your immunity cells, attack the cells in the hair follicles, causing them to shrink and stop hair production. It is not clear why white blood cells target hair follicles, but there is evidence to suggest that alopecia areata is a genetic disorder and not a symptom of stress.
Alopecia areata affects both men and women and presents as patchy hair loss on the scalp, beard, or eyelashes. Before losing hair, you may experience a burning sensation or itching in the area, and the condition may affect your scalp or the entire body. Conventional treatments for alopecia areata include the use of corticosteroids and platelet-rich plasma (PRP).
Telogen effluvium disrupts the hair cycle resulting in hair thinning or shedding periods of six months or longer. This condition affects more women than men but generally doesn’t result in hair loss of more than 50%. Women who have telogen effluvium will typically notice more hair on their hairbrush, pillow, or shower drain.
Triggers that can disrupt the hair cycle and cause telogen effluvium include:
- Hormonal changes due to childbirth, puberty, and menopause
- Chronic stress
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Underlying conditions, such as thyroid gland problems
- Sudden weight loss
- Metal toxicity
The correct hair loss treatment for telogen effluvium depends on the cause. Common treatments include hormone replacement therapy, dietary adjustments, hair transplants, and PRP. If you are unsure whether your hair loss constitutes telogen effluvium, schedule a hair health check at our hair loss clinic.
Traction alopecia is self-induced hair loss due to repeated hair pulling. Women who often wear their hair in tight ponytails or buns typically develop this condition. Traction alopecia presents as missing hair along the scalp’s front and sides, similar to female pattern hair loss.
Aggravating factors of this condition include a pattern of unhealthy hair practices, such as the application of heat and chemicals. Other symptoms include bumps forming at the base of hairs and hair follicle inflammation.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern hair loss, or androgenic alopecia, is a form of genetic hair loss and affects more than 50% of all men older than 50. Like alopecia areata, genetics cause male pattern hair loss, and it affects the levels of androgens, which are hormones regulating hair growth.
Male pattern hair loss weakens the growth cycles of hair in certain areas, causing the hair follicles to shrink. As the follicles shrink, they produce finer hairs. At some point, the hairs’ growth cycle ends, and they stop growing. With male pattern hair loss, alopecia begins at the crown of the head or temples, or it can present as a receding hairline in the form of an “M”.
Natural hair regrowth isn’t possible with male pattern hair loss, and the only viable hair loss treatments include PRP or hair transplantation.
Female Pattern Baldness
Male and female pattern hair loss is similar in various aspects, but women experience hair loss in a different pattern than men. Women generally start losing hair at their part line, and the hair at their temples may also begin receding. Female pattern hair loss is also less common than male pattern hair loss, especially before midlife.
Female pattern hair loss has hereditary causes and generally happens after menopause, which means hormones are responsible for male and female pattern hair loss. With the right treatment, hair regrowth and further hair loss prevention are possible with female pattern hair loss.
Alopecia Treatment Options
Various treatments are available for hair loss. Alopecia treatments for hair growth typically include medications, hair transplant surgery, or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
A hair loss treatment addressing the underlying cause of hair loss may also restore hair growth. For example, if hair loss is due to hormonal changes, hormonal therapy may offer the best results.
Of all the modern treatments for hair loss, PRP is among the most effective. PRP is a suitable treatment for all hair conditions and involves injecting the patient’s own platelets at a high concentration into the scalp. The platelets heal the hair follicles, stimulating the growth of new hairs.
According to some studies, patients can see results within three months after receiving PRP. Hair and Skin Science specialises in the field of PRP treatments. If you are losing hair and looking for the best results, schedule a hair health check and consultation at our hair loss clinic.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Some chemotherapy drugs, such as altretamine, docetaxel, and carboplatin, can cause hair loss. Hair usually starts growing back within three months after chemotherapy ends, and it can take up to a year for your hair to grow back completely.
The growing phase for scalp hair lasts up to three years under normal circumstances. After the growth phase, hair enters the resting phase, during which the hair follicle detaches from the papilla, and the hair sheds so a new one can grow in its place.
You should only receive PRP therapy from a professional with the qualifications to work in the hair restoration field. At the Hair and Skin Science hair loss clinic, we have a fully qualified team who can provide you with safe and effective PRP therapy.
Disclaimer: We are all unique. This means that treatment plans, the results, down time and recovery following treatment will vary from patient to patient. The information presented on this website should be used as a guide only.