Alopecia Unveiled: Delving Into the Science of Hair Loss

Hair loss is a common concern affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Not only can it affect individuals of all ages and genders, but its causes are as diverse as its treatments. To understand it better, it is helpful to explore the various reasons behind hair loss – from genetics and hormonal changes to lifestyle and medical conditions. Just as there are multiple causes, a wide array of treatment options are available, ranging from topical solutions and medications to lifestyle adjustments and advanced therapies. If you are ready to delve into the science of hair loss and discover effective strategies to help your hair’s health, Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer offers insights and solutions.

Understanding Different Types of Hair Loss in the Spokane Area

Hair loss, or alopecia, can manifest in various forms, including gradual thinning, receding hairline, or complete baldness. You can also lose hair anywhere on your body, not just your scalp. To address this concern effectively, it is crucial to understand the underlying mechanisms. Hair growth occurs in cycles consisting of the anagen (growth) phase, catagen (transition) phase, and telogen (resting and shedding) phase. It is normal to lose (or shed) between 50 to 100 hairs a day. Hair loss occurs when the balance between hair growth and shedding is disrupted, or in other words, when new hair doesn’t replace the hair that would fall off normally.

The following are some of the different types of alopecia:

Androgenetic Alopecia – The most common type of hair loss is called androgenic alopecia, also known as patterned alopecia. This is caused by a genetic predisposition for the hair to become thin and recede. Although androgenic alopecia occurs in both men and women, the pattern of hair loss is quite different. Male hairlines tend to recede, resulting in male pattern baldness. For women, the hair becomes thinner at the top and vertex of the scalp, and the part becomes widened. The frontal hairline is usually spared, and progression to complete baldness is rare.

Telogen Effluvium – This form of hair loss is characterized by a disproportionate number of hairs entering the telogen (resting) phase without new hairs forming to replace them. This is the most common form of temporary hair loss, often occurring after extreme stress, such as a significant medical procedure or childbirth. Other reasons can include severe infection, psychological stress, hyper or hypothyroidism, and some medications.

Anagen Effluvium – Anagen effluvium occurs when hair follicle production is stopped abruptly, typically by chemotherapy medications or radiation. The American Cancer Society explains that some drugs may cause hair thinning or hair loss in some people, but sometimes the same drug will not affect other people. The hair thinning or loss may be on the scalp, or it can also occur on arm and leg hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Learn more here.

Alopecia Areata – Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss due to the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicle. It often presents as small circular areas of hair loss on the scalp or beard. Hair loss can be more extensive on rare occasions, leading to complete baldness.

Tinea Capitis – This fungal infection is likened to ringworm, as it often leaves a circular pattern of baldness. It occurs more often in children, with the scalp becoming red and scaly, but the condition is treatable with antifungal medications.

Hair Shaft Abnormalities – These forms of hair loss affect the hair shaft, rather than the follicles. Hair production may be normal, but the hair is breaking, causing the volume to thin. These can often be treated by changing hair routines, but some cases require medication.

Causes of Hair Loss

It’s essential to know the causes and types of hair loss since these will determine whether your hair falls off suddenly or gradually, if it’s thinning, if it has a chance to regrow, and what treatment will be most effective. The American Academy of Dermatology goes into detail about 18 causes of hair loss, some of which include:

  • Family history
  • Hormonal changes due to childbirth, menopause, or thyroid problems.
  • Medical conditions such as autoimmune diseases and infections.
  • Medications which include those used for cancer, heart problems, and depression.
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Effective Treatments for Hair Loss

The first step in finding a treatment is to consult with a Board-Certified Dermatologist or Certified Physician Assistant who will diagnose your hair loss. Based on your Provider’s findings and your specific situation, they will start you on a particular treatment or a combination of treatments.

  1. Topical Medications – two main types of medication have proven to be effective as hair loss treatments:

Minoxidil: This FDA-approved over-the-counter treatment stimulates hair growth and reduces hair loss. It is available as a foam or liquid, applied directly to the scalp. It does not cure baldness and may take six months to see results.

Prescription-strength Propecia (finasteride) is primarily used for male pattern baldness. This prescription medication works by blocking the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is known to shrink the hair follicle in men.

  1. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy: PRP involves extracting a small amount of the patient’s blood, separating platelet-rich plasma, and injecting it into the scalp. Platelets contain growth factors that promote hair growth and improve hair density.
  1. Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT): LLLT utilizes laser devices or combs emitting low-energy light to stimulate hair growth. It enhances blood circulation in the scalp and promotes cellular activity in hair follicles.
  1. Hair Transplantation: Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE) are standard hair transplantation techniques. FUT involves removing a strip of hair-bearing scalp and transplanting it to the balding area, while FUE involves extracting individual hair follicles.
  1. Lifestyle Modifications: Addressing underlying factors such as stress, poor nutrition, and hormonal imbalances can positively impact hair health.

Remember that it is best to seek treatment as soon as you notice your hair loss or thinning. While some types of hair loss will improve once the cause has been handled (i.e., you stop taking certain medications or manage your stress), other types do better the sooner you start treatment.

The experienced Providers at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery understand the importance of offering the highest level of Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology care. You can book an appointment online to learn more about all the services we provide at our four locations in Spokane North, Spokane Valley, and Coeur d’Alene.