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Different types of hair loss

What is Alopecia:

So what is Alopecia? Why do we have this condition and what can we do about it? Alopecia is basically hair loss and takes various forms from small isolated patches of hair loss on the head or body through to the person going totally bald. For a woman to go totally bald is a very worrying and traumatic time, as nearly all women pride themselves on their appearance and styling their hair as part of a morning grooming routine plays a major part in this.

Hair growth can be slowed or stopped in certain areas for many reasons. There are many possible causes of various form of Alopecia. It could be the result of over styling hair routines or heavy use of chemicals on someone’s hair. Another is a compulsive condition of pulling one’s own hair out, also known as Trichtillomania. Medical conditions like iron deficiency, an overactive thyroid or autoimmune disorders and sometimes prescription medication can cause thinning of the scalp hair to a point where patches appear. This patchy condition is known as Alopecia Areata. If left untreated or if the condition doesn’t respond to any treatment, complete baldness can result in the affected area.

This is known as Alopecia Totalis. When the entire body suffers from complete hair loss, this condition is known as Alopecia Universalis. This condition has similar effects to that of a person who has had Chemotherapy due to illnesses like Cancer. These are the three most common Alopecia causes of hair loss resulting in women especially, having to look at various treatments and solutions to cover up their hair loss condition. Most women look at wigs to hide this condition, others use decorative head scarves and the brave ones simply stay bald.

Alopecia - Hair Growth and Development:

Hair growth for each hair follicle follows a three stage cycle of growth. When the hair has finished growing, the hair goes into a resting stage before the hair falls out allowing a new hair to grow in its place. The first phase is the main growing phase or Anagen Phase, where the hair grows normally for anything up to about five years. Next is the transition phase, known as the Catagen Phase where the hair comes to the end of its growth cycle. During this phase which can last around two weeks or so, the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6th of the normal diameter, making the root diminished and the Dermal Papilla (part of the root that the hair gets it’s nourishment from) breaks away and rests below the skin layer. The final phase is the resting phase, known as the Telogen Phase, which lasts around four to six weeks. The hair doesn’t grow during this phase, the Dermal Papilla stays in the resting phase below the skin.

Around ten to fifteen percent of all hairs on your head are in this resting phase at any given moment and at the end of this stage, the hair follicle re-enters the growth phase again. With this the Dermal Papilla and the base of the follicle join together again and a new hair begins to form. In some cases, the new hair will push the old hair out of the way (old hair falls out) and the hair growth cycle will starts again. Hair does not go through the hair growth cycle in patches or patterns. Each hair can be in a different stage of this cycle compared to any adjacent hairs. On average, around a hundred hairs fall out every day and a disruption (like inflammatory immune system cells) in the growing phase causes a loss of Anagen hairs, resulting in patches of no hair growth, or Alopecia. This can happen to anyone, at any age and at any time, but is more devastating for the person the younger they are, especially in babies or very young children.

Alopecia Areata:

Alopecia Areata, also known as AA is the name given to refer to patches of hair loss anywhere on the body. In men, having patchy hair loss on ones arms or legs may not be an issue to many, but could cause social concerns to others, especially if the patches were visible or were on the scalp. In women, patchy hair loss on the scalp is far more of an issue and can be a great cause for concern. With this treatments are sought and if the patches were overly large, many women would look at wigs and hair pieces to help hide this condition. After all, there are many personal and social reasons why hiding the problem would be beneficial.

The first indications of Alopecia Areata would be small coin shaped patches, which at first may be hard to notice and may have been there for many weeks before the person actually realises that there might be an issue. The condition may be short lived or may persist for an unknown period of time, but this all depends upon the person and no two people are the same. The concentration of the patches characteristically can locate themselves in areas, so only effecting one side or area of the head. Another sign is hair becomes easier to pull from the scalp compared to other hairs, which need a good tug to pull them out. If you have any concerns or are unsure about what condition if any you may have then please consult your doctor at the earliest opportunity.

Alopecia Totalis and Univeralis:

Alopecia Totalis, also known as AT is the name given to the specific type of Alopecia, which results in the total loss of hair to the head. This condition also includes, facial hair, eyebrows and eyelashes and is the progression of Alopecia Areata resulting in an autoimmune disorder occurring in the Anagen phase of hair development. Alopecia Universalis, also known as AU is the name given to the most severe form of Alopecia, which is the total loss of all hair from the rest of the body including the head, body, limbs and genital area.

With losing eyelashes and nasal hair, those with the condition must also take care to avoid infections of the eyes and nose, as nasal hair and eyelashes do act as a first line defence barrier to stop unwanted intrusions into those areas and people should avoid unnecessary bacterial contact and other potentially harmful viruses. All of these types of alopecia are reoccurring conditions that don’t cause any physical harm to the person but can cause considerable psychological, embarrassment and emotional stress as a consequence of being seen in public with this condition.

Treatments for Alopecia:

So what can we do about it? Basically not very much unfortunately. Many women simply accept the fact that the condition is there and try and get on with their lives as best they can. Most wear wigs and there are many brands on the market today in an array of styles and colours, which will look great on the right person. In either synthetic fibre or human hair fibre with a choice of different wig caps as well, something to suit all tastes and budgets. Many, especially in hotter countries opt for wearing decorative head scarves, while others remain bald. Whatever your choice is, you should ensure that the choice is right for you.

Is there a medical alternative to wigs and scarves? Yes, in some cases with Alopecia Areata there is a non-prescription medication called Minoxidil, which is a liquid that is rubbed into the effected scalp areas twice a day. Only around a third of all people who try this method will experience and regrowth and this can take up to a year or so to show any results. To use Minoxidil to re grow hair this would need to be done on a continuous basis, as stopping the treatments would result in hair loss again. With any form of medication take advice from your doctor before hand and seek specialist advice also.

Chemotherapy and Wigs:

For many people, hearing the news that you have Cancer are words that nobody wants to hear from any doctor, especially if you are a woman. There are many different forms of cancers and no matter which one you have been diagnosed with, there will be months of treatments ahead probably involving Chemotherapy. One of the side effects of having Chemotherapy is losing one’s hair and for women this is particularly hard. Many women pride themselves with their appearance and in particular their hair, so facing the prospect of losing it is a double blow of bad news.

Here at Wigtopia, we have many customers who contact us for a wig, just as their hair is starting to fall out following their first session of Chemotherapy and they are all naturally distressed. This distress can be prolonged as the wig they have chosen is not in stock for immediate delivery and there will be a short delay while the wig arrives. We want to avoid any unnecessary distress to all our clients at all costs. Many people do contact us early so we try and give them this advice.

As soon as you have been diagnosed with Cancer and told that you will need Chemotherapy, you must assume that all your hair will fall out and take steps well before your first treatment and be prepared for this event. This means getting a wig sorted out, and then to start wearing it well before your first treatment to get used to wearing one and being seen with a slightly different hair style. Doctors will tell you, that you may lose some or all of your own hair through this treatment and may advise you to use a cold cap to help reduce this effect. We hear mixed reports on these cold caps, and as no two people are the same and many will have different degrees of success with them. Therefore always assume the worst case scenario and have a wig on hand right from the start. Many people are surprised by the quickness that hair loss occurs following their first treatment and so many people are unprepared. There is nothing more frustrating at losing your hair and not being able to get the wig you need immediately, having to wait a few days for the item to arrive.