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Alopecia

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Alopecia is a general medical term used for hair loss on the head and/or body. It covers a wide range of reasons for the loss of hair, which can occur suddenly and without warning. The condition is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system starts to turn on hair growing follicles. Alopecia can affect men, women and children and the effects can be permanent or temporary.

Types of alopecia

  • Alopecia totalis is a total loss of head hair.
  • Alopecia universalis is when all hair from the head and body falls out. Anagen effluvium, usually caused as a result of chemotherapy, is an example of this type of alopecia.
  • Alopecia areata refers to hair loss occurring in small patches anywhere on the body. These patches can come and go and in most cases the hair will grow back within a few months. This type of alopecia can also affect the fingernails.
  • Androgenic or Androgenetic alopecia describes male or female pattern baldness. This type of alopecia is slightly different to the others as it isn’t an autoimmune condition.

Who gets alopecia?

It’s estimated that around 1.7% of the population will suffer from the condition at some point in their lives. There is no difference in the number of men and women that experience alopecia. While the condition can occur at any age, it usually affects teenagers and young adults. People with eczema, asthma or thyroid conditions appear to be more prone to alopecia and the condition has also been linked to stress or trauma.

Is it harmful?

Alopecia is not considered to be dangerous. However, it can have a real effect on a person’s confidence and be a source of mental health issues.

What treatments are available?

AlopeciaIn many cases no treatment is required, as the hair loss is temporary and it will grow back naturally. Male pattern baldness is considered to be a natural sign of ageing and as such is not usually treated. There are treatments on the market for male pattern baldness but these don’t work for everyone and aren’t available through the NHS. If you are experiencing a different form of alopecia and are finding it distressing then your GP may prescribe you medication in the form of injections, a topical cream/lotion or in some cases a course of UV light therapy. If these don’t achieve results you may wish to look into hair loss surgery. However, this is expensive and again not normally offered by the NHS.

Unfortunately treatments for alopecia don’t have a great success rate and even if effective, they can take months to make any noticeable difference. If you’d rather not go down the medication route, you may like to consider wearing a wig or going under the needle to have eyebrows, or even the illusion of a head full of hair tattooed.

How to cope with alopecia

Experiencing sudden hair loss can be difficult to deal with, particularly for many women. Hairstyles often contribute to self-esteem, confidence, femininity and personality and it can be traumatic to suddenly lose that. Going online to find forums or support groups can be a good place to start. It helps to know you’re not alone and you may pick up some valuable tips. It’s important to talk to friends and family about your alopecia and how it’s making you feel. If people know it’s affecting you deeply then they are likely to be more sensitive and avoid making tasteless jokes about it. Treat yourself to new hats and scarves that you’ll want to wear and that will help disguise hair loss if you feel self conscious about it.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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