Alopecia is one of those words that rolls off your tongue. Al-O-Peesh-A. It’s kind of fun to say. But, the condition itself is rarely fun to deal with.
It’s not just one condition. There are a few different types of Alopecia that fall under the umbrella term. And, the early symptoms tend to overlap making it both frightening and difficult to self-diagnose. Why is that scary? Some types of Alopecia can be corrected with intervention while others are extraordinarily difficult to treat. And, there’s one form of Alopecia that you can bring upon yourself without the aid of genetics or current health.
There are different triggers for hair loss, but knowing the difference between the conditions in the Alopecia family may just prompt you to seek treatment sooner rather than later – even if you still need a professional to diagnose your particular hair loss cause.
This basic form of Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder where the body begins rejecting its hair. Your body responds to the hair follicles as if they were a germ or bacteria. As one would hope in other cases, Alopecia areata prompts your white blood cells, and disease-fighting systems kick into gear. They attack the hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out in small, usually round, patches about the size of a coin.
Anyone and everyone is susceptible to Alopecia areata, but people with a genetic link to the condition are more likely to battle this type of hair loss.
Treatment of this condition is possible. And, in some cases, your body simply corrects itself. However, a few instances develop into a more permanent and complete form of Alopecia. As with all forms of hair loss, the chance of regaining your natural hair growth increases when you seek treatment sooner.
Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
Rather than patches of hair loss, Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis affect a greater area. Alopecia Totalis is the complete loss of hair on the scalp of your head. Although the actual cause is unknown, the link to autoimmune disorders and chemicals known to reduce immunity (such as chemo) have been clearly demonstrated. Depending on the cause, your hair may return to a state of growth on its own or with some help. For others, the condition is untreatable although the majority of patients benefit from intervention.
Alopecia Universalis is another story; it’s the complete lack of hair… anywhere on the body including eyebrows. You may have seen reference to this form of Alopecia in comedic movies and television shows. But, just like the word is more fun than it should be, this condition can be scary. Fortunately, it is quite rare. Alopecia Universalis is also considered an autoimmune disease and one that must be medically diagnosed, even if it becomes evident in the advanced stages. Still, effective treatments are available though they do not work for everyone. As the most advanced form of Alopecia, it is recommended that patients seek treatment as quickly as possible.
It’s scary when your hair loss happens without any rhyme or reason. But it may be scarier still when it occurs as a result of your actions. And that’s exactly what happens with Traction Alopecia.
Most people consider their hair to be dead cells – and it is… to an extent. Underneath the dermal layer (the skin), your hair is alive and requires certain nutrients and conditions to grow. When your hair breaks or pulls out at scalp level, you’re damaging your hair follicles. It’s the same as a cut on your hand. A skin wound will heal given time and treatment. But, if you continue to open it or re-engage the wound, it will simply become worse.
How do you get Traction Alopecia? Through cosmetic injury, you do to yourself. Women that pull their hair back, people with braids or dreadlocks, and those that wear head gear are all likely to see some form of this condition if they do it repeatedly.
Traction Alopecia can be halted when the offending behaviours stop. But, that doesn’t mean that hair will automatically regrow. You may need help along the way – through professional treatments.
And, all these forms of Alopecia are just the beginning. There are many other forms of this condition, some more nuanced than others. They all reveal themselves in the same manner though – as a progression from “nothing to worry about” to “complete panic”. If you’re concerned, you should visit us before you pass the point of concern. After all, Alopecia may be a fun word to say, but there’s nothing funny about any of these conditions.