What Exactly Is Alopecia? Millions of people suffer from this

The Oscars event on Sunday night shed light on hair loss and the various shapes it can take. Here’s what you should know about alopecia.

What Exactly Is Alopecia?
pic credit: Diana Andrunyk/Getty Images

You’ve probably heard (or seen) the incident of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, which she has publicly revealed is due to her alopecia, was the subject of the joke.

Hair loss is also known as alopecia. Hair loss, despite being relatively common, can have a negative impact on a person’s happiness and well-being since hair is so intimately associated with personality and identity.

There are several varieties of alopecia, each with its own set of causes and symptoms. It can appear anywhere on the body, although it’s most commonly seen on the scalp.

In addition to Pinkett Smith, other public celebrities, like Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and actress Viola Davis, have spoken out about their alopecia and lobbied for wider awareness and acceptance. Alopecia affects millions of people, so you’ve probably encountered someone who has it even if you didn’t realize it. Here’s everything you need to know about the prevalent hair loss problem.

What exactly is alopecia? What is the root cause?

There are several forms of alopecia. A person’s genetics predispose them to particular forms of hair loss, but environmental factors can also play a role.

Alopecia areata

This form of hair loss is caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the hair follicle fights itself, resulting in permanent or temporary hair loss. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is unpredictable, and many persons with this disorder develop it when they are younger or in their teens, but it can also afflict older folks.

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, it affects up to 6.8 million Americans, or little more than 2% of the population, at some point in their lives.

According to the AAD, patients with alopecia areata are often otherwise healthy, despite the fact that it is an autoimmune illness. Alopecia areata, like other types of hair loss, has a genetic component, but environmental variables also play a role, according to the NAAF.

Androgenetic alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia, often known as male- or female-pattern hair loss, is one of the most frequent causes of hair loss. Baldness is commonly associated with men, especially as they age, but it is also a prevalent type of hair loss in women. According to the National Library of Medicine, it affects more than half of all males by the age of 50, and it is also frequent in women after menopause, albeit it manifests differently. Androgenetic alopecia often causes the hairline to recede gradually in men, beginning at the front of the hairline. Hair gradually thins all over the scalp in women, but this rarely leads to total hair loss.

Androgenetic alopecia, as the name implies, can be inherited, and having a family member with this form of hair loss may increase your chances of developing it as well. It’s also induced by androgens, which are more prevalent in men and postmenopausal women.

According to the National Library of Medicine, people who have this form of hair loss may be at a higher risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), coronary heart disease, and prostate enlargement.

Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia

Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia
pic credit: bymuratdeniz/Getty Images

This is a pattern of hair loss in the crown of your head or on your scalp. According to the AAD, patients with this condition’s hair follicles can be destroyed, resulting in scar tissue and irreversible hair loss. It is critical to seek treatment because it can be irreversible. That means prescription medicine for CCCA.

This type of hair loss is most common in African-American women, but it can occur in men and people of all ethnicities.

Stress or illness-based hair loss

Anagen effluvium is a kind of hair loss caused by medicinal treatments like chemotherapy. Telogen effluvium is a kind of hair loss caused by stress, sickness, or a hormonal imbalance such as pregnancy. However, both problems are caused by disruptions in the hair’s development cycle, which can be restored once the stressful event or therapy has passed.

Another type of hair loss caused by continuous strain on the scalp, such as wearing tight ponytails or braids, is traction alopecia. Itching, redness, and other symptoms may also occur. Although it is treatable, your doctor may give antibiotics or other medications to treat the scalp.

Is there a treatment for alopecia?

There are numerous therapies available for hair loss, depending on the type.

According to Yale Health, alopecia areata may react to treatment with steroids, which interfere with immune system cells. However, these treatments may not work for everyone, and the severity of the disease may play a role. There are various topical therapies available, and some minor cases may resolve on their own.

According to Harvard Health, androgenetic alopecia can be treated with the medicine Minoxidil (Rogaine), which is helpful for both men and women. According to Healthline, in some tests on hair development with this kind of alopecia, essential rosemary oil was just as effective as Rogaine.

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If you’re having unusual hair loss, consult your doctor or a health care professional. Even if you decide to go with your new appearance as is, it’s critical to have your hair inspected by a specialist to discover what’s causing the hair loss and your best next measures.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided solely for educational and informational reasons and is not intended to be health or medical advice. If you have any questions about a medical condition or your health goals, always see a physician or other trained health expert.

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