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15 Types of Alopecia: Symptoms and Treatments
There are at least 15 different types of alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes noticeable hair loss. The most common form, androgenic alopecia, affects both men and women as they age. There are many contributing factors that can lead to alopecia, however they are ultimately often related to the immune system. Here’s a closer look at the different types of alopecia, their symptoms, and available treatments.
Androgenic Alopecia (sometimes called Androgenetic Alopecia) is the most common form of hair loss in men and women. Also known as male- or female-pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia is characterized by a receding hairline in men (also called a “widow’s peak”) and thinning hair at the crown of the head in women. In both sexes, the hair loss gradually progresses to form a bald spot. Androgenetic alopecia is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors.
Female Pattern Hair Loss
Female pattern hair loss is the most common form of androgenic alopecia in women. It typically begins with hair thinning at the crown of the head, followed by a receding hairline. As this condition progresses, the balding spot enlarges and may eventually encompass the entire top of the head.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness (MPB) is the most common form of androgenic alopecia in men. It typically begins with a receding hairline, followed by hair thinning at the crown of the head. As MPB progresses, the balding spot enlarges and may eventually encompass the entire top of the head. Men with MPB usually retain their frontal hairline.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. The body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out. This autoimmune condition usually affects the scalp, but it can also occur on the face, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
The most common symptom of alopecia areata is patchy hair loss. When people develop alopecia areata, the hair loss typically occurs in round or oval patches. Some people with the autoimmune disorder alopecia areata may also experience nail changes, such as brittleness or ridging. There are several different types of alopecia areata, which we will review:
Persistent Patchy Alopecia Areata
One of the common types of alopecia areata that people experience is called persistent patch alopecia areata. This type of alopecia areata is characterized by the same round or oval patches of lost hair that are typical for people with alopecia areata. However, with persistent patchy alopecia areata, the patches of hair loss fail to expand into diffuse hair thinning across the entire scalp. While this condition doesn’t lead to complete hair loss, the stubborn patches of lost hair will typically fail to regrow hair without treatment.
Diffuse Alopecia Areata
Another one of the common types of alopecia areata is called diffuse alopecia areata. The hair loss from this type of alopecia areata typically starts in patches, but spreads to diffuse thinning that can affect the entire scalp, leading to extensive hair loss.
One of the less common types of alopecia areata is Alopecia totalis, a form of alopecia that causes the loss of all scalp hair. Alopecia totalis can start with patches of thinning hair typical of patchy alopecia areata, but will eventually affect all the hair on the scalp and lead to complete hair loss. Alopecia Totalis is characterized by complete baldness on the scalp. Some people with alopecia totalis may also experience nail changes, such as brittleness or ridging.
Cicatricial Alopecia (Scarring Alopecia)
Cicatricial alopecia, also known as scarring alopecia, is a type of hair loss that occurs when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue. The most common cause of scarring alopecia is inflammation of the hair follicles (folliculitis). This can be caused by infections, such as folliculitis decalvans, or autoimmune diseases, such as discoid lupus erythematosus.
This type of alopecia typically causes patchy hair loss and bald patches. As the condition progresses and destroys hair follicles, it can lead to widespread hair loss and eventually complete baldness.
Because this type of alopecia destroys the hair follicle, it results in permanent hair loss with no hope of hair regrowth. For the permanent damage caused by this condition, the best solution for hair restoration would likely be hair transplant surgery.
Alopecia universalis is a form of alopecia areata that causes the loss of all hair on the body, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair. The loss of hair typically occurs in patches, but can also affect the entire body.
The most common symptom of alopecia universalis is complete baldness on the scalp and body. Some people with alopecia universalis may also experience nail changes, such as brittleness or ridging.
There is no cure for alopecia universalis, but there are treatments that can help regrow lost hair. The most common treatment is corticosteroid injections, which are given directly into the affected areas.
Traction alopecia is a type of alopecia that is caused by tight hairstyles that pull on the hair and damage hair follicles. The most common cause of traction alopecia is wearing hairstyles that are too tight, such as cornrows, braids, ponytails, or hair extensions. Putting stress on hair with repeated pulling from a hairstyle like a tight ponytail can result in destroyed follicles.
Traction alopecia has the potential to only result in temporary hair loss if the offending hairstyle is removed and the hair roots are allowed to heal. Ideally, once the follicles are allowed to heal, free from continuous pulling, healthy hair regrows own it’s own in a few months. However, in some cases, therapies or surgery may be necessary to correct the damage.
Telogen effluvium is a type of alopecia that occurs when the hair follicles go into a resting phase and stop growing new hair. This can be caused by physical or emotional stress, such as childbirth, surgery, severe illness, or major life changes. The loss of hair typically starts 2-3 months after the severe stress triggering event and is usually temporary.
Alopecia barbae, commonly known as Beard Alopecia, is a form of alopecia that affects the beard area. The hair loss typically occurs in patches, but can also affect the entire beard.
Hair Loss due to cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, is common. The hair loss typically occurs in patches, but can also affect the entire scalp.
The most common symptom of cancer treatment-related hair loss is patchy baldness. The hair loss typically occurs in round or oval patches. Some people with chemo-related hair loss may also experience scalp irritation.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia
Frontal fibrosing alopecia affects the frontal hairline and causes it to recede. The condition typically results in patches of hair loss on the front and sides of the head.
Lichen planopilaris occurs when the hair follicles are damaged by an inflammatory condition called lichen planus. The hair loss typically occurs in patches, but can also affect the entire scalp.
Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia is a type of alopecia that occurs when the hair follicles are damaged by an inflammatory condition. The hair loss typically occurs in patches, but can also be widespread.
Postpartum alopecia is a type of alopecia that occurs after pregnancy. The condition is caused by the changes in hormone levels that occur during pregnancy. You can learn more about this condition and potential treatment options in our guide to postpartum alopecia.
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