The term alopecia refers generally to the loss of hair. Alopecia can be brought on by factors ranging from genetics to fungal infections to damage of the hair follicles. There are two primary types of alopecia:
- Alopecia areata – In this case, the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles and causes them to fall out. This type of alopecia can cause hair to fall out in patches all over the body.
- Androgenetic alopecia – This type of alopecia is an inherited condition that causes hair on the head to over-shed, gradually thin and eventually cease to grow.
Androgenetic alopecia in men is commonly referred to as male pattern hair loss or baldness. Nearly 50 million men in the US are affected by this form of alopecia. Approximately 30 million US women are affected by androgenetic alopecia, which is also known as female diffuse hair loss.
Male pattern alopecia usually appears as an upward regression of the hairline from the forehead, which is typically more pronounced at the temples. There is also usually an expanding area of hair loss from the crown of the head. Often the alopecia progresses to the point at which all that remains is a horseshoe shaped area of hair that extends around the sides and back of the head. Female diffuse alopecia usually presents as a gradual thinning of the hair, particularly from the top of the head.
Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition, but its development and rate of progression can be influenced by a number of factors such as age, illness, reaction to medication, or malnutrition. There are a number of treatment options for alopecia, including surgical and non-surgical treatment. Highly successful alopecia treatment results can be achieved, depending on the type of alopecia, when the treatment is started, and the degree of hair loss that has already occurred.