Approximately 6.8 million people in America (and 147 million worldwide) will experience it at some point in their lives – but when you experience it, you may feel like the only one. It can feel like you’re not yourself anymore, causing you to lose confidence in your appearance. How can you get to the root of it? 

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term for any type of hair loss. It’s further broken down by category:

Scarring (cicatrical) alopecia: causes complete loss of hair follicles, so there is damage to the scalp that results in the hair not being to grow back, ever. This kind of alopecia affects about 3% of people who experience hair loss and is recognizable predominantly by the scabby or “ragged” appearance of the patches, as the hair follicle is killed and then replaced by scar tissue.

Non-scarring alopecia: these are the more common forms of alopecia, including alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia; these forms don’t kill the hair follicle – they more or less just cause it to be dormant. The most common kinds and causes:

Alopecia Areata & Alopecia Totalis: an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks its own hair follicles, keeping the hair from growing. Areata falls out in small patches (areas), most commonly on the scalp and in facial hair; Totalis is complete (total) loss of hair.

What does it look like? The hair loss occurs in patches or the full scalp, but the remaining skin behind is smooth.

Who does it affect? Males and females relatively equally, but onset most often occurs during childhood, puberty, and late teens.

Is it genetic? Partially. Alopecia areata is a polygenic disease, meaning it requires many genes to contribute to bringing the condition “alive;” stress, diet, hormones, and lifestyle play just as much of a role as genetics do for this one – it’s estimated that about 20% of people who experience alopecia areata have a direct relative with the condition.

What happens in the body to cause the alopecia areata? The body overreacts to the hair follicles, basically seeing them as “bad” – your T-cells (immune “fighter” cells), as a result, kills the follicles’ ability to grow hair.

What is the best treatment? Anti-inflammatory steroid injections: corticosteroids are injected at the site of the affected area(s) every 4-6 week, reducing inflammation and mitigating the autoimmune attack hair follicles.

Androgenetic Alopecia (male- and female-pattern baldness): hair loss that’s caused as a result of hormonal changes that affect the hair growth cycle.

 

What does it look like? This form of alopecia usually has a much more defined pattern. In men: the hairline begins to recede over time, eventually forming an “M” shape, with as the top of the scalp loses hair as well. In women: the hair tends to thin all over the entire scalp. 

Who does it affect? Approximately 50 million men in the US annually, and 30 million women. It can begin for men as early (and commonly) in their late 20s and 30s, while in women it usually only occurs after menopause.

Is it genetic? Partially – and a little more hereditary than alopecia areata. This form is caused by hormonal changes, and a few genetics that alters the hormones that bring about this form of alopecia are constantly studied, though the direct links are still not completely clear. There’s about a 50% rate of heredity for both males and females. Like alopecia areata, stress, diet, hormones, and lifestyle play a role as well.

What happens in the body to cause the alopecia areata? A healthy hair cycle involves 3 phases: anagen (growing phase), catagen (regressing phase), telogen (resting phase). This entire process is regulated by prostaglandins (PGs), which, when out of balance, cause the hair cycle to become imbalanced.

To add another ingredient to this relatively confusing hair mix, you’ve also got the AR gene at play – it’s what provides the body with the instructions to map out the sex hormones in your body. So what’s this got to do with hair? Testosterone is one of those sex hormones, and it turns into DHT with the aid of the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, located in hair follicle’s oil glands. When DHT binds to these reductase receptors, it shrinks the hair follicle – so all the correct balance of prostaglandins in the world can’t function at the root as it should.

What is the best treatment? PRP injections: a small amount of your own blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets out, which are then injected at the site of hair loss. The platelets are rich in growth factors that stimulate collagen, tissue, and cell regeneration, including attracting stem cells to the repair site, to stimulate follicle health and hair growth.

Is your hair thinning or falling out, and you’ve tried changing your diet and supplementing with vitamins to no avail? Contact our office to find out today how you can get your hair – and confidence – back!