Types of Hair Loss

Hair loss can be a very sensitive subject and it's often not something we want to talk about, especially if we're the ones experiencing it. Perhaps that's a reason why we don't hear about it as much as we should. Bringing this topic to light can be a tricky balancing act. We understand this dilema (firsthand) and strive to spread awareness and remove the stigma with style and grace.

Many people assume that those experiencing hair loss are receiving proper support and care, but this has proven to often not be the case. There are great organizations that exist in order to provide solutions for certain individuals with hair loss. However, many of those in need do not fit into the 'right' category to qualify for help (due to not being the right age or gender or having a qualifying illness).

Alopecia Areata is a type of autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. This can cause hair loss on the arms, face, scalp and anywhere else on the body, and usually results in either irregular thinning or hair loss in patches. It is common for hair to come and go, with hair regrowing in one area and falling out in others, however in rare cases it can lead to complete bodily hair loss - leaving about 10% of those with the disorder with hair loss that is permanent. This disorder commonly starts around adolescence, affects all ethnicities, both sexes, and about 2.1% of the total population. There is not yet a known cure for Alopecia Areata. For more information, please visit the National Alopecia Areata foundation website.

Alopecia Totalis is an autoimmune disorder characterized by a total loss of hair on the scalp. This can also affect eyebrows and eyelashes, but it does not affect the rest of the body. It has been described as a sort of a middle ground between Alopecia Areata (round patches) and Alopecia Universalis (total body hair loss).

Alopecia Totalis can appear in two ways, the first being a relatively sudden and complete loss of all head hair. The second being a more gradual form which originates as Alopecia Areata and increases to the complete loss of all scalp hair. This most commonly affects children and young adults under the age of 40, though it can affect people of all ages. It can also affect the the nails, giving them a ridged, pitted or brittle appearance. Reference

Some drugs can cause hair loss by interfering with the normal cycle of scalp hair growth. Broadly speaking, this cycle is split into two phases; anagen and telogen. During the anagen phase, which lasts for two to six years, the hair grows. During the telogen phase, which lasts about three months, the hair rests. At the end of the telogen phase, the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair.

Medications can lead to two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium is the most common form of drug-induced hair loss. It usually appears within 2 to 4 months after taking the drug. This condition causes the hair follicles to go into their resting phase (telogen) and fall out too early. People with telogen effluvium usually shed between 30% to 70% more than the average 100 and 150 hairs a day.

Anagen effluvium is hair loss that occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle, when the hairs are actively growing. It prevents the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from dividing normally. This type of hair loss usually occurs within a few days to weeks after taking the medication. It's most common in people who are taking chemotherapy drugs for cancer and is often severe, causing people to lose most or all of the hair on their head, as well as their eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hairs.

The severity of drug-induced hair loss depends on the type of drug and dosage, as well as your sensitivity to that drug.

Drugs that can cause temporary or permanent hair loss include drugs for treating cancers, blood disorders, acne, depression, glaucoma, high blood pressure, hormonal conditions, heart issues, thyroid disorders, and Parkinson's disease, among others. For more information about drugs that can cause hair loss, please click here.

According to the Journal of Investagative Dermatology, The effects of treatment may take time to resolve, with one study showing that breast cancer survivors often wear wigs for up to 2 years after chemotherapy. JID Journal Article.

Trichotillomania, also known as "hair pulling disorder," is a chronic impulse control disorder characterized by an intensifying urge that results in the pulling out of one's hair. This can occur to such a degree that hair loss can be visible. It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stop the behavior without treatment. Hair pulling may occur in any region of the body in which hair grows but the most common sites are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelids. The hair pulling can become extreme, to the point of causing severe distress.

It is estimated that 1%-2% of adults and adolescents suffer from Trichotillomania, though it occurs more in females [1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. For some individuals, the disorder may come and go for weeks, months, or years at a time.

Alopecia Universalis is an autoimmune condition which results in the complete loss of hair on the scalp and body. It is an advanced form of Alopecia Areata. According to the U. S. National Library of medicine, about 20% of affected people have a family member with Alopecia, which suggests that genetic factors could be a contributing factor. There is currently no cure for Alopecia Universalis, but it is possible for hair regrowth to occur on it's own, even after many years.

Androgenetic alopecia is an hormonal condition that can cause hair loss that affects both sexes.

For men, this condition is also known as male-pattern baldness. Hair is lost in a well-defined pattern, beginning above both temples. Over time, the hairline recedes to form a characteristic "M" shape. Hair also thins at the crown of the head and advances to partial or complete hair loss.

In women, the pattern of hair loss differs from male-pattern baldness. The hair instead becomes thinner all over the head, and the hairline does not recede. According to an article from Harvard Medical School, it is rare for androgenetic alopecia in women to lead to total hair loss.

Traction alopecia is caused by localized trauma to the hair follicles due to tight hairstyles that pull at hair over time. If the condition is detected early enough, it is possible for the hair to regenerate. The most common styling causes of Traction Alopecia are braiding too tightly, overly tight cornrows, tight ponytails, and improperly installed hair extensions

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