Alopecia areata is a disorder that can cause you to lose your hair in patches all over your body. It’s possible that these patches will join together, at which point they’ll become more obvious. This condition manifests itself when the hair follicles are attacked by the immune system, which ultimately results in a loss of hair. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, this type of hair loss is quite widespread and affects almost 7 million people in the United States (NAAF).
It does not matter who a person is or what race or gender they are; anyone can be affected. There is no set age at which alopecia areata first appears; it can start at any time. Additionally, it varies greatly from person to person. The first step in developing an effective treatment for hair loss is determining the cause of the condition. Seeing a dermatologist who is board-certified is recommended in order to increase the likelihood of receiving an accurate diagnosis.
How do dermatologists identify the underlying cause of alopecia?
A dermatologist will first collect information about your condition in order to narrow down the possible causes of your hair loss. Your dermatologist will do the following:
- Ask questions. It is crucial to know how long you have been experiencing hair loss and whether or not it came on suddenly.
- Examine your scalp, nails, and any other hair loss-affected areas closely. This examination provides crucial insights into the current situation.
- Examine the condition of your hair. Your dermatologist can determine how your hair is growing and whether it is prone to breakage by gently pulling on it.
If your dermatologist believes that your hair loss could be caused by an illness, vitamin deficiency, hormone imbalance, or infection, he or she may recommend that you get a blood test or scalp biopsy. The office of your dermatologist should be able to do these examinations.
After gathering all of this information, your dermatologist should be able to tell you what’s causing your hair loss in most cases. It’s possible that someone has more than one cause. For instance, a woman may have given birth a few months ago, which may be the cause of apparent hair shedding at this time in her life. It’s also possible that she suffers from early inherited loss, which isn’t as noticeable.
Types of Diagnosis for Alopecia
Your doctor will probably perform a full physical examination and inquire about your nutrition, hair care practices, and health history before making a diagnosis. Moreover, you could face examinations like the ones listed below:
- Blood test. This could be helpful in identifying medical issues that could be causing your hair loss.
- Pull test. The doctor will pluck out a bunch of hairs and count them to see how many are actually coming out. This is useful for gauging the current shedding phase.
- Scalp biopsy. In order to check the hair roots under a microscope, your doctor will take samples from the skin or pull a few hairs from the scalp. These samples are then examined. This can be helpful in determining whether or not hair loss is caused by an infection.
- Light microscopy. Your doctor can check the hairs in their bases with a special equipment. If there is a problem with the hair shaft, microscopy might reveal it.
Treatment of Alopecia
There are medical solutions available that are successful in treating certain types of hair loss. You might be able to stop the thinning of your hair entirely, or at the very least, slow it down. In some cases, such as diffuse hair loss (also known as alopecia areata), hair may recover even in the absence of treatment within a period of one year. Both pharmacological and surgical procedures are available as treatments for hair loss.
If your hair loss is the result of an underlying medical condition, you will need to undergo therapy for that condition. If your doctor determines that a certain medicine is the cause of your hair loss, he or she may recommend that you discontinue use of the prescription for a period of a few months. Pattern baldness, often known as hereditary baldness, can be treated with medication. Among the most frequently selected alternatives are:
Minoxidil is an over-the counter drugs that comes without a prescription in liquid, foam, and shampoo formulations. For best results, use the cream twice daily for males and once daily for female on the scalp skin. Foam that is applied to wet hair is preferred by many people.
Many people use minoxidil-containing products to either stop hair loss in its tracks or to help people regrow hair. To stop additional hair loss and to begin hair regrowth, a minimum of six months of treatment are required. It can take a few more months before you can see if the treatment is having an effect on you. You must take the medication continuously indefinitely to maintain the benefits if it is working.
This medication is available only with a doctor’s prescription. You need to take a pill of it every day. Many men who take finasteride see a reduction in the rate of their hair loss, and some even report seeing new hair growth. It’s possible that it will take a few months before you can determine whether or not it’s working for you. You must continue to take it in order to get any of its potential benefits. It’s possible that finasteride won’t function as well for guys over the age of 60.
Other treatments that can be taken orally include spironolactone (Carospir, Aldactone), as well as oral dutasteride (Avodart).
Hair transplant surgery
The top of the head is the sole area of the body affected by the most prevalent type of permanent hair loss. Having a hair transplant or restoration procedure might help you make the most of your remaining hair. A dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will extract hair from a hair-bearing area of the head and transplant it to the bald area during a hair transplant operation. There are one to numerous hairs in each hair patch (micrografts and minigrafts). It is occasionally necessary to remove a wider skin strip with several hair clusters. Although this surgery doesn’t need to be done in a hospital, it is uncomfortable, therefore you’ll be given sedatives to help with the pain. Risks include the potential for bleeding, bruising, edema, and infection. For the desired result, you could require multiple surgeries. Surgery won’t stop hereditary hair loss from progressing ultimately.
A low-level laser device has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat male and female genetic hair loss. It increases hair density, as demonstrated by a few short trials. More research is required to demonstrate long-term effects.
Lifestyle and home remedies
You should experiment with different approaches to hair care until you find one that improves the way you feel about how you look. Use styling products that add volume to your hair, color your hair, and adopt a hairdo that makes a widening part less obvious. These are just a few examples. Make use of wigs, hair extensions, or shave your head entirely. Consult with a hair stylist to get some suggestions. These methods are useful for treating both permanent and temporary thinning of the hair.
A doctor might be able to identify alopecia areata by observing the pattern and severity of your hair loss and analyzing a small sample of your hair under a microscope, as we mentioned before. To rule out other causes of hair loss, such as fungal infections like tinea capitis, your doctor may recommend a biopsy of your scalp.
A small sample of skin from your scalp will be removed and sent off for testing during a scalp biopsy. On the other hand, if the doctor suspects that you have another autoimmune disorder, he or she may conduct blood testing. The doctor’s suspicions will determine which blood test is ordered. A physician, however, is more likely to request testing to look for aberrant antibodies.
The presence of these antibodies in the blood can be indicative of an autoimmune disease. It may be necessary to request further testing to rule out other possible causes, such as a thyroid disorder or hormonal imbalance, depending on the results. Consult a medical professional if you’re having hair loss to get answers and explore treatment alternatives.
Maybe you are interested: Recent Advancements in Hair Research