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Alopecia is the loss of hair. Hair loss can be caused by different reasons, including damage to the hair shaft or follicles. Fungal infections can also cause hair loss.
There are two main types of alopecia. When the body's immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes hair to fall out, it's called alopecia areata. Hair can fall out in patches all over the body. Androgenetic alopecia, on the other hand, is a kind of hair loss that's inherited. Hair on the head thins and falls out. In men, this is called male pattern hair loss; in women, it is called female diffuse hair loss.
About 60% of people with androgenetic alopecia are men. Hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia is permanent.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of alopecia may include:
What Causes It?
Causes may include:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Usually your doctor can diagnose androgenetic alopecia by examining you and taking a medical history. If your health care provider suspects alopecia areata, the health care provider may order a fluorescent antinuclear antibody (FNA) test, which can help determine if there is a problem with your immune system.
Treatment depends on the type of alopecia you have. With many temporary forms of alopecia, hair will grow back without treatment. For people with alopecia areata, medications may help reduce hair loss. Some men with male pattern hair loss may consider surgery, such as hair transplants, scalp reduction, and strip or flap grafts.
For male pattern hair loss:
In the case of both medications, if you stop using the drug hair will fall out again. If you use these medications, your health care provider should monitor you for side effects.
For female diffuse hair loss:
For alopecia areata:
Surgical and Other Procedures
Surgical options include hair transplants, scalp reduction, and strip or flap grafts.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
These therapies have only slight success in treating male pattern baldness.
Nutrition and Supplements
For alopecia areata
For androgenetic alopecia
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs should only under the supervision of a health care provider.
For androgenetic alopecia
For alopecia areata
Therapeutic massage increases circulation (helping bring more blood to the scalp) and reduces stress. Scalp massage using essential oils of rosemary, lavender, thyme, and cedarwood may help increase circulation (see Herbs).
Some men using finasteride (Propecia) may have a decreased sex drive or trouble getting an erection.
If you are pregnant, wait to treat alopecia until after your baby is born.
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Prager N, Bicketee K, French N, Marcovici G. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. J Altern Complent Med. 2002 Apr;8(2):143-52.
Sinclair R, Patel M, Dawson TL Jr, Yazdabadi A, Yip L, Perez A, Rufaut NW. Hair loss in women: medical and cosmetic approaches to increase scalp hair fullness. Br J Dermatol. 2011 Dec;165 Suppl 3:12-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10630.x.
van den Biggelaar FJ, Smolders J, Jansen JF. Complementary and alternative medicine in alopecia areata. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(1):11-20. doi: 10.2165/11530040-000000000-00000. Review.
Review Date: 12/31/2011
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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