Today, many people believe "hair loss" is a single disease. However, there are different types of hair loss. Some affect men, and others affect women. Some are genetic, and some are caused by underlying factors. If you're suffering from thinning hair, identifying the type of hair loss and its causes are the first steps.
Genetic Hair Loss
Genetic hair loss is the most common, accounting for more than 90 percent of hair loss. Also called androgenetic alopecia, AGA results from a DHT imbalance, which decreases the time hair spends growing . DHT is a sex hormone that affects the top and front of the scalp, where the most susceptible hair follicles reside.
While AGA is commonly called "male pattern baldness," it can also be called "female pattern hair loss," depending on who it is affecting.
Over time, DHT shrinks hair follicles. This causes the hair to thin. In men, the thinning is most pronounced on the hairline, which regresses and creates an M-shaped pattern on the scalp. In women, the hair loss is diffuse and can be patchy or uneven. Women can have two distinct patterns of baldness.
Inflammatory Hair Loss
Inflammatory hair loss is often due to alopecia areata . An autoimmune disease that affects the skin, alopecia areata causes hair to thin on the face, scalp, and body. It affects 6.8 million people throughout the U.S.
While many people believe alopecia areata is similar to lupus due to their common symptoms and the fact that both are autoimmune conditions, the conditions have several differences.
Although Lupus causes hair loss as well, it involves scarring of the hair follicles, which prevents hair from regrowing. With alopecia areata, the hair follicles remain alive, and hair can regrow.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is a form of reversible, stress-caused hair loss that affects hair growth at a particular phase of the growth cycle.
During periods of stress, such as pregnancy, surgery, or chronic illness, TE pushes hair follicles into the resting phase, which causes hair to fall out and thin. People who have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, are also at risk for telogen effluvium.
This thinning can be more pronounced in some areas than in others, specifically the top of the scalp or along the hair part. Most people don't need to undergo treatment for TE, and hair will grow back when the stressful event resolves.
Tinea capitis is ringworm of the scalp. It is a fungal infection that spreads quickly, causes patchy hair loss, and results in round, scaly areas.
While it is easy to confuse this disorder with alopecia areata, tinea capitis is characterized by pus-filled sores known as kerions. The affected areas may also be itchy and associated with a mild fever.
Ringworm on the scalp can cause lasting hair loss and damage and should be treated immediately.
Traction alopecia is hair loss caused by something pulling at the hair. This is common for children and adults who frequently wear their hair in pigtails, braids or ponytails that are sufficiently tight to pull at the scalp. Trichotillomania, or an urge to pull out hair, can also be a factor .
If you have traction alopecia, you'll notice a fringe along your marginal hairline. Traction alopecia is reversible, as long as the pulling is resolved.
Treating Hair Loss
The treatment for your hair loss depends on the type of hair loss. After visiting a hair loss specialist for conclusive diagnosis, remedies like hair growth supplements, topical minoxidil and vitamins are often recommended. These, along with diet and lifestyle changes and prescription medications, are often enough to reverse hair loss.