What Causes Alopecia?

Maybe your hairline is creeping farther and farther back each year in your family photos. Maybe you’ve developed small, patchy bald spots across your head. Or maybe there’s more hair in your hairbrush than usual.

Whatever symptoms you notice, suffering hair loss can make you wonder what’s causing it and how to stop it. Losing 50-100 hairs a day is normal, but anything more than that could be a sign of alopecia, the medical term for baldness. 

Alopecia can quickly impact your confidence, but the right treatment can help. If you’re affected by baldness, visit Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry. Dr. Mikell can help you understand the cause of your hair loss and provide treatment to manage or even reverse it.

Understanding the types of alopecia

Alopecia broadly describes baldness, but there are many kinds of alopecia. It’s important to understand common alopecia characteristics and get a proper diagnosis in order to find an effective treatment for your hair loss. Two of the most common types of alopecia are androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata.

Androgenic alopecia

Androgenic alopecia, often called male-pattern baldness, is the most common type. It can affect men and women, but your gender may determine your symptoms. Male-pattern baldness can affect men as early as their teens or 20s. It begins with a receding hairline, and hair on the top of the head begins thinning. Male-pattern baldness may progress to complete baldness on the head. 

Just because it’s often called male-pattern baldness doesn’t mean androgenic alopecia only affects men. Women can suffer female-pattern baldness, which generally develops in women in their 40s or older. It’s characterized by thinning hair across the scalp, particularly around the crown of the head.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a type of alopecia that can affect anyone at any age, even children. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your hair follicles. It commonly results in patchy hair loss on your head. Bald spots caused by alopecia areata are usually round and about the size of a quarter.

Common causes of alopecia

Since there are a number of types of hair loss, there are also a number of causes.

Androgenic alopecia

Androgenic alopecia is caused by genetics. This type of hair loss follows a predictable pattern, and if you have a family history of hair loss, it’s more likely that you’ll experience it as well.

Unfortunately, you can’t change your genetic makeup. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with hair loss. Treatments, such as minoxidil and finasteride, can stop hair loss from getting worse.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata often appears suddenly. Unlike androgenic alopecia, it’s not caused by genetic factors. It’s an autoimmune condition that triggers your immune system to attack your hair follicles.

It’s not clear what causes alopecia areata to develop. While it can lead to complete baldness, it’s rare. In fact, 90% of people with alopecia areata find that their hair grows back within a few years. Treatment with corticosteroids or topical immunotherapy can minimize hair loss caused by alopecia areata.

Other factors

Hair loss may be worse for people who are obese or have diabetes or high blood pressure. Sometimes, hormonal conditions can trigger hair loss. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome can trigger hair loss in women.

Don’t let hair loss hurt your confidence. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mikell and our team to learn more about stopping hair loss in its tracks. Book an appointment online or over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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