What is hair loss?

Alopecia is the medical term for all forms of hair loss. This may be patchy baldness, diffuse thinning or total loss of hair. Alopecia is not life threatening but it causes a lot of psychological upset and emotional distress.

Alopecia areata (patchy baldness) usually starts as a small, coin-sized, smooth patch of hair loss on the scalp. Other patches may develop but it is not possible to predict how much hair will be lost. The affected hair follicles slow down hair production and become very small but they remain alive and are ready to resume hair production once they receive a 'trigger'. Re-growth of hair is usually over a few months and the new hair is often finer and white.

How can hair loss be treated?

People with mild alopecia may not need any treatment as the hair is likely to come back on its own. Some treatment may encourage hair growth such a topical steroids or intralesional steroid therapy.

Alopecia Androgenetica (male pattern baldness) also occurs in women as a diffuse thinning. It often occurs after the menopause and is present in 50% of 50 year old women. It is also seen in young women who are genetically predisposed to the condition because they have an over sensitivity to androgens (male hormones) so contraceptive pills containing progesterone can exacerbate the problem. An anti-androgen contraceptive pill such as Dianette may be helpful. Another treatment option is topical Minoxidil (Regaine).

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