Wednesday, December 20, 2017 by Frances Bloomfield
Alopecia is the general term for the loss of hair from the head or body. Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons. Fungal infections and hair shaft damage are two common causes of hair loss, although traumatic and stressful experiences can also factor into this condition, according to UMM.edu.
There are numerous forms of alopecia, but the two main types are alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia. Alopecia areata is characterized by localized bald patches that manifest on the scalp and other hair-bearing areas of the body. This type of hair loss is noted for largely affecting teenagers and young adults, as well as those who have autoimmune conditions. Androgenetic alopecia, on the other hand, is a hereditary condition wherein the hair on the head recedes, thins, and eventually falls out.
As was mentioned earlier, alopecia areata is marked by patchy, non-scarring hair loss that impacts any site of hair growth. A number of people who have had alopecia areata went on to develop more severe forms, most notably alopecia totalis (the complete lack of scalp hair) and alopecia unversalis (absolutely no hair on the scalp and body). In addition to the hair loss, alopecia areata can affect fingernails and toenails as well. The nails may thin, split, become rough, lose their shine, or can even become covered in white spots and pinpoint dents.
A more rare and serious form of alopecia is scarring alopecia or cicatricial alopecia. The exact cause of scarring alopecia remains unknown. However, many of the cases of this condition where brought on by the complications of another disorder like scleroderma and discoid lupus. In scarring alopecia, inflammation damages hair follicles below the surface of the skin, resulting in permanent hair loss. Both men and women are susceptible to scarring alopecia.
More than just affecting one’s physical appearance, alopecia is known to have psychological effects too. Many people view their hair as an integral part of their identity, leading to them experiencing difficulty in coming to terms with their hair loss. As per ThePsychologist.BPS.org.uk, the psychological impact of of alopecia ranges from intense emotional suffering to problems with one’s personal, work, and social life. Surveys from 2004 have shown that as much as 40 percent of women with alopecia grapple with marital problems, while 63 percent stated that they had career-related issues that stemmed from their hair loss.
All forms of alopecia affect any part of the skin that has hair, though the scalp tends to be the most affected site.
As of current, there is no specific diet that can treat alopecia. However, dietary choices can play a part in lessening the severity of this condition, alopecia areata specifically. Inflammatory responses are a mark of alopecia areata, so consuming more anti-inflammatory foods (e.g. those rich in healthy fats and antioxidants) and less inflammatory ones (e.g. dairy products and polyunsaturated fats) are highly recommended. Foods that contain biotin are advisable too, since biotin plays a role in maintaining healthy hair and nails.
According to the NHS.uk, the most common forms of alopecia are a natural part of the aging process, and don’t really require treatment.
Though those who are looking for a solution to their hair loss will most often be prescribed medication. In the case of those with alopecia areata, corticosteroids are the usual go-to treatment. These anti-inflammatory drugs work by suppressing the immune system., and are usually delivered into the body through injections. In lieu of injections, some people will be given steroid creams, shampoos, and lotions. Other people might be recommended hair growth-promoting drugs instead.
Immunotherapy is another option. Here, patients will have to endure intentional allergic reactions to stimulate hair growth on the affected areas of their skin.
More recently, a number of individuals have taken the surgical route as a means of remedying their alopecia. Hair transplants and artificial hair implants have been recorded.
Alopecia is the loss of hair from parts of the body. There are many types of alopecia that affect different areas of the skin, most notably the scalp. Some types of alopecia are hereditary, while others are caused by problems with the immune system or by another health complication. Apart from hair loss, alopecia can cause affected persons to feel psychological distress.
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