What is Alopecia?
Alopecia simply means hair loss (baldness).
Hair loss occurs for a great many reasons…from pulling it out to having it killed off by cancer chemotherapy. Some causes are considered natural, while others signal serious health problems. Some conditions are confined to the scalp. Others reflect disease throughout the body. Being plainly visible, the skin and its components can provide early signs of disease elsewhere in the body.
Often times, conditions affecting the skin of the scalp will result in hair loss. The first clue to the specific cause is the pattern of hair loss, whether it is complete baldness (alopecia totalis), patchy bald spots, thinning, or hair loss confined to certain areas. Also a factor is the condition of the hair and the scalp beneath it. Sometimes only the hair is affected; sometimes the skin is visibly diseased as well.
• Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) is considered normal in adult males. It is easily recognized by the distribution of hair loss over the top and front of the head and by the healthy condition of the scalp.
• Fungal infections of the scalp usually cause patchy hair loss. The fungus, similar to the ones that cause athlete’s foot and ringworm, often glows under ultraviolet light.
• Trichotillomania is the name of a mental disorder that causes a person to pull out his/her own hair.
• Complete hair loss is a common result of cancer chemotherapy, due to the toxicity of the drugs used. Placing a tourniquet around the skull just above the ears during the intravenous infusion of the drugs may reduce or eliminate hair loss by preventing the drugs from reaching the scalp.
• Systemic diseases often affect hair growth either selectively or by altering the skin of the scalp. One example is thyroid disorders. Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) causes hair to become thin and fine. Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) thickens both hair and skin.
• Several autoimmune diseases affect the skin, notably lupus erythematosus.
• The constant use of chemicals in our everyday lives e.g in hair colouring, shampoo, conditioner, hair sprays etc