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Hair Loss (Alopecia)

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a significant thinning may indicate a medical condition or hereditary hair loss.

It’s normal for most people to lose approximately 50 – 100 hairs each day. For some people, however, bald patches or significant thinning may indicate a medical condition or hereditary hair loss.

Causes of Temporary Hair Loss

There are a variety of physical changes that can bring on temporary hair loss such as child birth, menopause, stress, weight loss in excess of 15 pounds, and nutritional changes (such as too much vitamin A, not enough protein, or not enough iron).

Certain prescription medicines (such as blood thinners, birth control pills, and medicines to treat arthritis, depression, heart problems, and high blood pressure) may cause hair loss.

Certain diseases such as thyroid diseases, anemia, and eating disorders, and some illnesses that result in high fever or severe infection can cause hair loss. Certain treatments for cancer (such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy) and surgery can also cause hair loss. As medical problems and/or treatments cease, hair loss can be stopped or reversed.

Some hair care practices (such as too much shampooing, brushing, or wearing styles that pull the hair off the scalp) can cause hair breakage. Traction alopecia occurs when a patient wears a hairstyle (such as a ponytail, cornrows or braids) that pulls on the hair over a period of years.

Symptoms of More Permanent Hair Disorders

Hereditary thinning or baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common cause of hair loss, affecting approximately 80 million men and women in the United States. Symptoms typically appear as a receding hair line, bald patches on top of the head for men or thinning hair and a widening part for women.

Alopecia areata, when smooth round patches of hair loss appear on the scalp and other areas of the body, is caused by an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own hair.

In the case of cicatricial alopecia, scar tissue forms where a person’s hair follicles once were, preventing the hair from re-growing.

Those suffering from central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (most often seen in women of African decent), experience hair loss that begins in the center of the scalp and radiates outward. This condition may also include burning, pain, tingling or itching on the scalp.

Treatment Options

Because there are many causes of hair loss, it’s important to see a dermatologist to determine what medical condition or external factor may be causing you to lose your hair. Once a cause has been established, your provider will discuss recommended treatment options. Catching the condition early may improve your chances for reversal and hair re-growth.

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