Types of alopecia and respective treatments

A healthy human hair is composed of approximately 90 000 to 150 000 individual hairs. 80-90% of them are simultaneously in the phase of active growth (anagen), 1-3% are in the transitional stage (catagen), and the rest - in a period of rest (telogen), after which comes their natural fall and the growth of new hair. 

Alopecia is the medical term summarizing all forms of unnatural hair loss in the scalp and other parts of the body. The name is derived from the Greek word “alopek” meaning “fox” and is an analogy to the natural molting (shedding) of that animal.

Alopecia in the area of the scalp has many manifestations - from visible thinning of the hair to emergence of bare areas of different size or full baldness. The causes of the condition are of diverse nature and based on them and on the clinical picture there are several subtypes of hair loss defined in dermatology.

Androgenetic alopecia (male / female type hair loss)

This is the most common type of hair loss, occurring as a result of genetically determined sensitivity of hair follicles to the sex hormone dihidrotestosteron (DHT). In men, in the initial phase of the disease, a gradual withdrawal of the front hairline is observed, while at the last stage the stripped section acquires the shape of a horseshoe. In women, the condition is characterized by a widespread thinning of the hair and / or a total hair lost starting at the crown of the scalp. The progression of androgenic alopecia can be delayed with oral and topical administration of certain drugs, combined with the appropriate cosmetics.

Alopecia areata (spot baldness)

This type of alopecia is considered to be an autoimmune disease, in which lymphocytes attack healthy cells, in this case hair follicles, and suppress or stop completely the growth of hair. It is characterized by the appearance of bald areas with circular form, which in rare cases may extend to a complete loss of hair (alopecia totalis). For the treatment of spot baldness the most commonly used drugs are the corticosteroids (synthetic analogues of steroid hormones) and specialized cosmetic products as adjunctive therapy.

Traumatic (traction) alopecia

Traumatic alopecia is a result of chemical or physical damage of the hair, most often caused by excessive / improper use of hair accessories, styling tools and products. To this type of hair loss belongs also the trichotillomania - a condition in which the affected individual pull the hairs of his body himself (but not for cosmetic purposes) in moments of sadness, severe anxiety, anger and when performing monotonous activities, such as talking on phone, reading, etc. Since in most cases only the hair shaft is affected, the use of growth-promoting cosmetic products is fully sufficient to remedy the situation, but of course, provided that the injurious factor has been removed.

Cicatrical alopecia

This is one of the rarest forms of hair loss, in which after infection, trauma or other negative effects, hair follicles die and are covered with scar tissue. Sometimes, the hair loss develops rapidly and is accompanied by itching, burning and pain, while in other cases it occurs gradually and without additional symptoms. As the disease leads to permanent hair loss, more aggressive treatment must be carried out immediately after the diagnosis in order to suppress its spread. Oral and topical medications are usually prescribe, as well as specialized cosmetic products as a complementary therapy.

Telogen effluvium

This is the second most common type of hair loss, in which under the influence of various factors (continuous stress, malnutrition, birth, another health problem - several diseases that cause alopecia are known, certain medications, etc.) a large number of hair follicles fall simultaneously in the resting phase (telogen). Telogen effluvium is characterized by diffuse thinning of hair, while it is possible that some areas are more affected than others. When it is not a symptom of another disease process, the condition does not require the use of drugs and can be favorably influenced (after removal of the cause) by the use of specialized hair cosmetics.

Anagen effluvium

This type of alopecia begins very quickly after the occurrence of the damaging factor (excessive exposure to toxins, chemotherapy, etc.). The hair falls in clusters already in the growth phase (anagen). Often, the condition results in loss of all body hair. The process, however, is reversible and growth of new hair can be accelerated by application of curative cosmetics.

Dozens of other types of alopecia could be classified, some of them defined among the diseases of unknown origin. Nevertheless, due to the efforts of modern medical researchers, ever more reliable methods and formulations for treatment of the disease in all its forms are being created. As always, however, prevention remains the best "treatment", that is why a complete care for the health of the hair and for the body as a whole must be the top priority of every person, especially for those with significantly higher risk of developing the decease.

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