Medical Causes of Hair Loss

The word "alopecia" is the medical term for hair loss. Alopecia does not refer to one specific hair loss disease -- any form of hair loss is an alopecia. Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics to the environment. Androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short) is by far the most common form of hair loss.

Other causes of Hair Loss include:

  • Telogen effluvium (genetic)

  • Alopecia areata (genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease)

  • Ringworm (fungal infection)

  • Scarring alopecia (environmental)

  • Cosmetic overprocessing (environmental)

  • Hormonal imbalance (internal)

  • Heavy metal exposure (environmental)

  • Medication side effect (internal)

Alopecia Areata (AA):  the immune system is inappropriately activated and attacks hair follicles. Lymphocytes play a primary role in the hair loss. AA can affect men, women, and children. It often appears as well-defined circular bald patches on the scalp. There is no redness or pain, but skin may be itchy. The hair loss can be sudden and rapid and affect just one or two patches, or less commonly the majority of the scalp. In adults, the hair follicle is not destroyed and hair can regrow. Unfortunately, children who develop AA before puberty are most likely to develop more extensive and persistent hair loss. Alopecia totalis is hair loss that spreads to cover the entire scalp. Alopecia universalis is hair loss affecting affecting the scalp, eyebrows, lashes, beard and entire body, Alopecia barbae is hair loss affecting only the beard area in men. Treatment for AA: corticosteroid creams and/or injections, pills or intravenous treatments

Scarring Alopecia: occurs worldwide in otherwise healthy men and women of all ages. Most forms of scarring alopecia first occur as small patches of hair loss that may expand with time. In some cases the hair loss is gradual, without noticeable symptoms, and may go unnoticed for a long time. In other instances, the hair loss is associated with severe itching, burning, and pain, and is rapidly progressive. The edges of the bald patches look more "ragged."  Affected areas may be smooth and clean, or may have redness, scaling, increased or decreased pigmentation, or may have raised blisters with fluids or pus coming from the affected area. When scarring alopecia is suspected, one or more skin biopsies are done to confirm the diagnosis to look for destruction of the hair follicles, scar tissue deep in the skin, and the presence and location of inflammation in relation to the hair follicles. Often, the early stages of a scarring alopecia will have inflammatory cells around the hair follicles, which, many researchers believe, induces the destruction of the hair follicles and development of scar tissue. Treatments: (1) scarring alopecia with lymphocyte inflammation of hair follicles is treated with corticosteroids in topical creams and by injection into the affected skin. In addition, antimalarial and isotretinoin drugs may be used. (2) scarring alopecias with neutrophils or a mixture of cells is treated with antibiotics and isotretinoin. Drugs like methotrexate, tacrolimus and cyclosporine sometimes required. Once a scarring alopecia has reached the burnt-out stage and there has been no more hair loss for a few years, bald areas can be either surgically removed if they are not too big or the bald patches can be transplanted with hair follicles taken from unaffected areas

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.