There’s nothing more frustrating than when you realize you are beginning to lose your hair. You don’t have to let it get out of control, however. Being able to spot the signs and symptoms of alopecia early could save you a bit of stress and give you a heads-up on what you can expect to experience.
Alopecia is just a fancy way to say hair loss. It does not discriminate: Anyone, at any age, of any race, and of any gender can develop alopecia.
Yet, some individuals are diagnosed with a medical condition called alopecia areata. This condition causes the hair to fall out in patches. Alopecia areata doesn’t always affect just the scalp. Some people experience hair loss in their beards and other body hair, or even toenails and fingernails.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system gets confused and begins to attack the body. In the case of alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles. This causes the hair to stop growing in certain areas, and eventually it falls out in patches.
Usually beginning in childhood, about 6.8 million U.S citizens will develop or has developed alopecia in a single year. Many of these individuals may have received it from their parents, as alopecia is thought by some to be a genetic disorder. Others believe that it could be due to stress, cold temperatures, childbirth, or illnesses. There are a number of reasons for hair loss. Due to the fact that there isn’t much concrete evidence on how alopecia is triggered, there is no real way to prevent it. Yet, there are a few symptoms that you could be on the lookout for to help spot hair loss early.
1) Small Bare Patches on the Scalp
This is the easiest way to spot alopecia areata. With it being a matter of the immune system attacking the hair follicle from inside, the hair will fall out cleanly and without pain, leaving a completely bald spot.
2) Thinning Hair
If you notice that your hair is thinning in certain areas, it may be a sign that alopecia is underway. The hair may fall out several strands at a time over a period of days or weeks, thus giving the appearance of thinning hair.
3) Loose Hair in the Shower or on Your Pillow
Let’s not jump the gun here. We all lose strands of hair every day -- about 100 strands, to be exact. But if you notice clumps of hair in the shower or on your pillow in the morning, you should check your scalp for bare patches as a sign of alopecia areata.
There is no cure for alopecia areata as there is no concrete data explaining the cause of it. However, many people experience sudden regrowth, replacing the hair that they’ve lost. It seemingly grows back just as quickly and unexpectedly as it fell out. For those who do not have regrowth with alopecia areata or those who simply have alopecia, there are treatments available to help you manage.
1) Corticosteroids for Alopecia Areata
Corticosteroids are strong steroidal drugs that can be used to suppress the immune system’s wrongful attack on the hair follicles. They can be taken orally, as a topical treatment, or even as an injection. While it may show positive results in regrowth, there are serious risks and possible side effects involved in taking corticosteroids. When taken orally, these drugs affect your entire system, not just a targeted area. Depending on the dosage administered, people may experience fluid retention, high blood pressure, weight gain, and possibly even glaucoma. When administered via injection, there are fewer risks involved, if any at all.
Topical immunotherapy is a more involved option mainly for alopecia areata. In this procedure, chemicals are applied to the bare area on the scalp to stimulate regrowth. The mixture creates an allergic reaction on the scalp and as a result of the reaction, hair grows. Unfortunately, it causes an annoying itchy rash that you’ll have to contend with. The mixture will need to be applied several times, so if you don’t mind the itching, inquire about immunotherapy for alopecia areata.
3) Minoxidil (Rogaine)
A popular treatment for hair loss is the use of Rogaine, a hair regrowth serum that has a mixed success rate. Typically thought to be for men, both men and women may benefit from this topical treatment. Many factors will determine the success of this treatment, such as familial history of hair loss, age, gender, and the severity of alopecia. Read more on Rogaine and its effects here.
4) Hair Transplant
It may be a bit expensive, but hair transplanting is a good way to restore your hair. This is done by transplanting hair surgically from one area of your scalp to the affected area. This will fill out the balding sections and make your hair more even.
Dealing with alopecia is already a stressful ordeal, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re in Cincinnati or a surrounding city, you can rely on The Dermatology Group to work through alopecia with our experts. Reach out to us today and gain control over your hair loss.