ALOPECIA

CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF ALOPECIA AREATA

It occurs more often in people who already have family members with the condition. This suggests that there is a hereditary pre-disposition. AlopeciaAreata is not contagious.

The simple explanation is that an inflammation develops around the hair root, causing the root to shrink in size and become inactive. The reason for this inflammation has yet to be discovered. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder which body attacks it own hair follicles. This then suppresses and stops the hair growth. An unknown trigger such as stress or a pathogen combined with a hereditary pre-disposition is thought to cause the condition. It can affect a perfectly healthy person at any stage of their lives. It is also thought that a deficiency of Vitamin B could contribute to the condition.

A person suffering from alopecia areata is likely to become very stressed about their hair loss. This can then aggravate their condition causing even further hair loss.

The first signs of Alopecia Areata are soft bald patches which can be any shape but are normally round. The head and beard are mostly affected but it can occur on any hair bearing part of the body. Some people experience tingling or slight pain in the affected areas.

In most cases where there are only a few patches, the hair grows back within 6 months to a year. Obviously if a person stresses about the condition, it may take longer to remedy itself. If the patches are bigger and widely spread, the person maybe suffering from Alopecia totalis or in rare cases alopecia universalis.

When the condition first appears, it is difficult to predict how pronounced the hair loss will be or how long it will take until the hair will start to recover.

ALOPECIA AREATA

Alopecia AREATA affects 1- 2% of people, both men and women. It often occurs in people who are apparently healthy and have no skin disorders. There are several different types of Alopecia AREATA. They are:

AREATA monolocularis – describes baldness in one part of the head. This may occur anywhere on the head, but often just on one side.
AREATA multilocularis – this refers to multiple spots of hair loss all over the head.

ALOPECIA TOTALIS

This is the loss of ALL hair on the head. As with Alopecia Areata, the physical mechanism responsible is not fully understood.

It has been suggested that Methotrexate and corticosteroids are possible treatments for the condition.

ALOPECIA UNIVERSALIS

Alopecia Universalis is the medical term for the rapid loss of ALL hair covering the entire body, including eyebrows and eyelashes. It is the most severe form of alopecia and only affects 1 in 100 000 people.

The condition can occur at any age and there is currently no standard treatment available.

LICHEN PLANUS

Lichen Planus (often pronounced “licken”Planus) is a severe form of hair loss, unlike any other condition, Lichen Planus scars the skin on the head. Once skin is scarred nothing will grow through the scarring. Depending on how severe and how long a person has had the condition dictates whether or not they can hope to remedy it. Patients with a cutaneous eruption (eruptions on the skin) may also have individual lesions arising out of the hair follicle. The areas surrounding the follicle are normally purple in colour and have scaly pruritic papules (hives like rash) on the scalp. LP is apparently a self limiting disease and resolves itself with 8-12 months. However there are cases of patients having the condition for longer and then unfortunately the area can become scarred. It is important to treat LP as soon as possible. Some of the medical treatments known to aid in the recovery of LP are:

– Prednisone
– Betamethasone
– Triamcinolone
– Halobetasol

A patient suffering with LP should consult a doctor to discuss the options available to them. It is also very important to boost the immune system with vitamins and minerals relating to auto immune disorders. Patients should be told about the self limiting nature of LP. Because LP is not common No large, randomised, controlled clinical trials have been conducted for therapy. There is a small likelihood of recurrence and the potential of adverse effects from the various medical treatments offered.

TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM

Telogen Effluvium arises quite suddenly. Usually from: Illness (fever related), surgical operations, accidents, childbirth, shock, weight loss, certain medications, contraceptive pill, iron deficiencies, thyroid conditions and hysterectomies etc. The symptoms of Telogen Effluvium are a larger than normal shedding of hair all over the head at one time. This is due to the disturbance of hair growth cycles of the hair. There are 3 phases of hair growth:

– Anagen (growth phase) 85% of hair is in the Anagen phase
– Catogen (releasing phase) lasting 2 – 4 weeks
– Telogen (resting phase) 15% of hair is in Telogen phase

A hair follicle usually grows for up to 4- 7 years and then rests for approximately 4 months before a new hair starts to form and push the resting hair (attached to the bulb) out. Once the old hair is released the cycle is complete. The new hair is exposed and remains on your head for 4 – 7 yrs. If there is a shock to the system as many as 70% of the Anagen hairs can be forced into the Telogen phase thus reversing the ratio. The hair is released simultaneously causing a larger than normal amount of shedding. This makes the hair much thinner and as this phenomenon continues the existing hair becomes visually unattractive and limp. Obviously it is less stressful if you have thick hair but in general this large shedding can cause anxiety which results in even more hair loss. Normally new hair grows back in 3 – 4 months of the shedding and in time the hair starts to thicken. However depending on age and other medical factors, the hair may never really be fully restored to its former thickness. Telogen Effluvium does not cause complete baldness, although it may unmask a genetic tendency to female pattern balding. (Thinning of the hair on top of the head). In most cases Telogen Effluvium is not a permanent condition and remedies itself to a degree. However it can reoccur through a person’s life several times.

TINEA CAPITIS

This is the medical name for scalp ringworm. It is a fungal infection which may cause irregular areas of hair loss where the ring worm occupies the hair shaft. The fungus causes the hair to break off. Once treated the affected area will have normal hair regrowth.

This condition is more common in children than in adults. A fungal cream is the best treatment for the condition.

SCARRING ALOPECIA

This is a rare condition and is almost always accompanied by pus which causes the permanent destruction of the hair follicles. Unlike alopecia areata there is no chance of renewed hair growth.

Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from spreading.

TRACTION ALOPECIA

This condition is caused by incorrect use of curling irons, blow dryers and chemical treatments (products with ammonia). The hair becomes dry and brittle and breaks of at the base of the hair shaft.

TRICHOTILLOMANIA

This condition is caused by deliberate plucking or twisting of the hair. Hair shafts are broken at irregular lengths. Unlike alopecia conditions the underlying hair is healthy and will grow back normally.


 

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