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Alopecia hair loss - Diagnosis, Care, and Treatment

by William Henderson (williamhenderson)

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Not all hair fall can be categorized under alopecia. Learn how to diagnose alopecia and what hair care tips or treatment measures can cure hair loss.

Alopecia or excessive hair loss is a very common health condition that affects people of all ages and genders. However, not every hair fall condition can qualify as alopecia. There are specific symptoms that you have to be diagnosed for, only then can the problem be categorized as alopecia. Here is a detailed guide for you to know about the important types of alopecia, their diagnosis, and their common treatment measures.

1. Alopecia areata

It is an autoimmune disorder that mostly causes unpredictable hair loss, so there won’t be any pattern to it. The main symptom is patchy but non-scarring hair loss which is usually limited to a few patches but can be more severe in some people. One classic symptom is the presence of ‘exclamation point hairs’ in the hairless patches. It also affects the nails which become rough, thin, and split easily. The development of this disease is very erratic and fast but the recovery can also be speedy in many people. It affects people of all ages and genders but generally, children and young adults (less than 20-year-olds) are at a greater risk. This condition is also known to be genetic in nature.

Skin biopsy conducted on the skin cells taken from the affected areas will show numerous lymphocytes which proves the autoimmune nature of alopecia areata. There are a few treatment options like taking minoxidil for inducing hair growth or the use of oral steroids and photochemotherapy. Intradermally injecting intralesional triamcinolone acetonide is also a proven treatment measure. However, they can only be useful for people with mild to moderate symptoms. Severe alopecia areata is non-curable.

2. Telogen effluvium

This is a very common cause of diffused hair loss, especially in women. It is quite easy to spot as the patient will notice hairs on their pillow, bathroom floor, and all around the house. This is because the hair fall rate goes up from the normal 100 hairs/day to 200 or more hairs in a day. Sometimes, even 30-50% of the body hair can also be lost. And this hair fall rate will continue for 6 months or more. The most interesting thing about this condition is that it had already started about 3 months before you actually started observing hair loss.

It is usually triggered by a certain kind of shock - it might be because of severe illness, drugs, surgery, a crash diet, thyroid disorders, or severe stress. The sudden shock forces most of the hair follicles to enter the resting phase where they stop growing and shed hairs. However, this condition is reversible with the correct course of action.

It can be diagnosed by conducting the pull test. Your dermatologist will gently pull a few dozen hairs at once and see how many come out easily. If more than 10% of the total hairs pulled fall, you will be positively diagnosed with telogen effluvium. Its treatment options are mainly targeted at solving the issue(s) that are causing you stress.  

3. Androgenetic alopecia

Also known as the pattern or male pattern hair loss, it is the most common cause of hair fall. This condition mainly affects people over 30 years of age. Being the most prevalent one though, it is also the least dangerous one. However, it can cause the patient much stress and an inferiority complex. The pattern hair loss can be easily diagnosed by the visible bald patches (subtler than in alopecia areata), thinning of hair, and the receding hairline. Usually, the first diagnosis performed by your doctor will be to take your detailed history and conduct a physical test. This is because androgenetic alopecia is transferred through the genes. The test will let the doctor know if the condition is scarring or non-scarring - the former is reversible while the latter is not.

There are usually a few treatment options for you to choose from. A 2% or 5% topical minoxidil solution is effective. Taking Finpecia 1 mg (finasteride) daily is another viable option, especially for those who don’t respond to minoxidil. 

Hair care tips to manage alopecia

We saw how the different types of alopecia can be diagnosed and some common treatment options for them. Here are a few general hair care tips that will help you prevent hair fall and give a boost to the hair regrowth process-

  • Use chemical-free, natural hair products (shampoo, oil, conditioner, etc.)

  • Regularly brush your hair and scalp

  • Do not use heat to style your hair or minimize the use of tools like straightening/curling irons

  • Make sure your diet contains all the essential vitamins (A, D, C, B-complex, and E) and minerals (iron, zinc, selenium) that keep your hair healthy and helps them regrow

  • Head massages can be helpful in both providing nutrition to the scalp and de-stressing you

Follow the above hair care guidelines and visit a doctor (if needed) because if the hair loss is excessive, you will need medical aid. You can take one Fincar 5 mg tablet daily to help stop the hair fall and stimulate hair growth.

Some other treatment options

For more severe conditions, your doctor can suggest you several hair treatments like-

  • Low-level laser therapy

  • Microneedling or hair transplant

  • Platelet-rich plasma injections (especially for alopecia areata) 

Conclusion

If you have been experiencing excessive hair fall lately, you should get it diagnosed by a doctor. The most common diagnosing tests are- a blood test, a pull test, scalp biopsy, and light biopsy. In addition to these, the physician will also ask you about your diet, personal and family medical history, your hair care routine, and will conduct a physical examination. Based on his diagnosis, the doctor will recommend treatment options. It may contain simple hair care tips, medications, or a combination of both. They may also suggest hair treatments like laser therapy.

If you take your doctor’s advice seriously and keep a good hair care routine, you should be able to cure alopecia or at least, manage it well. 

Tags

alopecia hair loss, hair loss, hairfall

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