Everything you should know about alopecia

Dealing with hair loss can be quiet traumatizing and no one would wish to go through it. Apart from it taking a toll on your self-esteem, it can also be very stressing when you don’t know why it’s happening and what you can do to salvage the situation.

Have you heard of the term alopecia before? Probably you have heard someone mention the word but you were not lucky to know what exactly it is. If you want to know more about this hair condition, from its causes, symptoms to treatments options, then keep scrolling.

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is a clinical term used to describe many different types of hair loss. Even the hair loss caused by ageing or chemotherapy is also considered a type of alopecia. The condition causes the hair to fall out in patches usually on the scalp. Sometimes, the hair can fall out across the whole scalp and this is known as alopecia totalis. Although hair loss on the scalp is the most common, it is important to know that you can lose hair in other parts of the body such as the beard, pubic hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. If you lose hair on both the scalp and other parts of the body, this type of hair loss is called alopecia universalis.

Since alopecia doesn’t get rid of the hair follicle, the hair can regrow in the affected areas although it can take months or years. It is also important to know that it may not regrow at all. That is why it’s important to know the condition well to prevent its occurrence.

Early symptoms of alopecia to look out for

Signs and symptoms of alopecia can vary depending on the underlying cause, gender and age. Over the same, there are common signs that can help you to find out if you have alopecia. For instance, a thinner ponytail for women may be a warning sign but for men, it’s pattern baldness. Other symptoms may include:

Excess hair in drain or brush

If you have noted more hair on your pillowcase, comb or when showering, you could be having alopecia. While it’s perfectly normal to lose some hair, you should get concerned if you notice excess or sudden hair loss. It should actually be a sign enough to warrant a trip to your doctor. Early identification of the cause can help slow or stop the problem altogether.

Sudden hair loss in patches

You may notice a bald spot or a strip of hair loss within just a few days but in some cases, spots may grow very slowly and this can take a while to notice. At times, you may experience a stinging or burning sensation before the sudden hair loss. If you notice blistering, itching or tenderness around the area you have lost the hair, consult your healthcare provider immediately. It could be a sign of an infection.

White spots on nails

Did you know your nails can give you a clue on the status of your health? Changes on your nail beds with signs such as white patches, pitting or small craters can all be an early sign of alopecia. While changes to your nails can occur for various reasons, if the signs are accompanied by hair loss, then you should consult a dermatologist. Remember that treating the condition early enough can prevent scarring which can lead to permanent balding.

Thinning beard, eyebrows and eyelashes

Other than your scalp, hair loss can also occur in other parts of the body. That’s because the condition causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. In fact, any part of your body with hair is a candidate to alopecia. If you notice patches of hair loss on your beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair or the pubic hair, consider consulting your doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of alopecia

Alopecia is an autoimmune condition. It develops when your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. As your immune system tries to defend your body against foreign substances, it may end up attacking your hair follicles. When hair follicles are attacked, they become smaller and stop producing hair. This results in hair loss.

Although researchers don’t know what exactly causes the condition, mostly it occurs to people with a family member who has had it. That’s why some scientists suggest that alopecia could happen as a result of the person’s genetic makeup. Also, research shows that if you have had other autoimmune conditions such as dermatitis, thyroid disease, Down syndrome, atopic and asthma you are more likely to get alopecia areata.

Ways to manage alopecia

If you are already suffering from alopecia, there are certain things you can do to manage the condition. The following ways can help you to manage it. However, note that alopecia can go away but still come back after some time. It can also continue even with treatment but this should not stop you from giving it a try. They could work for you.

Eat healthy foods

Interestingly, eating healthy meals and leading a healthy lifestyle can slow down alopecia. That’s because poor nutrition can lead to hair loss. Therefore, ensure your meals consists of nutritious foods such as fish, lean meat, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and beans. If you get hungry between meals eat healthy snacks.

Reduce stress

Some people have lost hair because of dealing with stressful events most of their time. Stress is not only bad for your health but it can also damage your hair. Hence avoid it at all cost. If you are feeling stressed out try out relaxation methods such as meditation, listening to music, taking deep breaths or going somewhere quiet to relax.

Avoid scalp trauma

To protect your hair from damage, only use a wide-toothed comb or a soft-bristled hairbrush when combing your hair. You should also avoid hairstyles that strain your hair especially the hairline. You can use chemicals on your hair but do not overdo it.

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