Alopecia. Sounds scary, but it just means hair loss. There are many causes of Alopecia, most of which are treatable. I will go over the top 5 reasons for hair loss and what to do about it.
First, don’t panic, as stress can make hair loss worse. Remember, anyone can suffer from hair loss, both men and women, young and old. Politician Ayanna Pressley recently opened up to the public on her own hair loss experience in this NY Times article.Next you will want to find a local Board Certified Dermatologist, the best specialist to evaluate and treat your hair loss and make an appointment fast.
While you are waiting for your appointment to see the doctor, educate yourself so you are familiar with the terminology and can have a productive visit. Another thing to do while you are waiting, you can perform hair counts. Collect all the hairs you lose for the day from your pillow, shower drain, brush, comb, car seat, clothing, etc. and put them all in a bag. Do this daily for a week, and then sit down and count the hairs and average them by dividing by 7. Are you over 130 hairs a day? That is active loss. If you are under 130 hairs a day, you likely have stable hair loss and are hopefully regrowing at a normal rate.
Top 5 Reasons for Hair Loss
#1: Androgenetic Alopecia
This is the most common cause of hair loss which is why it is #1 in our top 5 reasons for hair loss. It can be present in both men and women and it is caused by hormonal changes over time. Men tend to recede and get a bald spot and can eventually go bald in some cases and women tend to get thin on the top but do not typically go bald. This type of hair loss is gradual, and worse with age, but can happen even to people in their 20’s occasionally.
What to do: Treatment is with topical minoxidil, for men oral finasteride, and for both men and women PRP or platelet rich plasma therapy or hair transplantation. All of these treatments can be very effective, but it requires a thorough consultation and evaluation to determine if AGA is the cause and best treatments.
#2: Telogen Effluvium
Telogen Effluvium is massive sudden hair loss typically a few months after a major stressor such as birth of a baby, operation, major illness, death, divorce, etc. Good news, it grows back on its own! It is not fun, but do not panic as it will resolve.
What to do–Topical minoxidil can stimulate the hair to grow back a bit faster, and try to reduce your stress levels and eat and sleep well. In general, reducing stress and eating and sleeping well are good for all sorts of hair loss and medical conditions. You should try to give your body what it needs to help the healing process.
#3: Alopecia Areata
This is very common in both kids and adults and usually presents with round bald spots and sudden hair loss. It is most common on the scalp, but can be anywhere on the body and commonly affects the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard area. Severe Alopecia Areata is when it affects the entire scalp or body, which is rare.
What to do: Alopecia Areata is usually mild and self resolving, but best treatment is with injections of low dose cortisone to reduce the inflammation and allow the hair to grow back. Topical minoxidil can be helpful sometimes as well as topical steroids or other immune response modulating creams. Some pills can help also although they may have more side effects.
# 4: Traction Alopecia
Traction alopecia typically affects adult women of African descent who have had their hair in tight braids for many years. The traction of pulling on the hair eventually causes the hairs to die off. This alopecia can be complicated to diagnose and treat.
What to do: Sometimes injections or creams and minoxidil or PRP may help. Best advice is prevention by giving the hair a rest from tight braids to avoid this condition. See a dermatologist to get a full evaluation and diagnosis.
#5: Inflammations and Infections
Folliculitis, Lupus, etc. There are many other causes of hair loss, they are all somewhat rare.
What to do: There are various treatments for these conditions including creams, injections, pills, etc. A diagnosis often requires a scalp biopsy or culture done in the dermatologists office and possibly blood work. Do not panic as these are usually treatable!
I hope that this explanation of the top 5 reasons for hair loss has been useful and that you do not have active hair loss. But if you do, remember it is mostly treatable and seek appropriate medical attention with a Board Certified Dermatologist.