Do I Have Alopecia?
If you are a young guy (or young at heart) and concerned about your hair loss then you may have asked this question. Unfortunately the answer is not as easy as yes or no. There a few different types of alopecia as well as many other reasons you could be losing your hair unrelated to alopecia. A misconception seems to exist that ‘alopecia’ means chunks of your hair spontaneously falling out and never returning. This is not really the case, and if you read on, you will discover that whilst alopecia can mean complete hair loss, it’s more likely to mean something far less dramatic.
Types of Alopecia
Alopecia Areata. Chances are that this is what’s popping into your head when you think of alopecia. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease which can present with patchy hair loss all over the scalp (diffuse alopecia areata), complete baldness of the scalp, like the famous actor Telly Savalas pictured here (alopecia totalis), baldness in one area of the scalp (alopecia areata monolocularis), hair loss in multiple areas (alopecia areata multilocularis), hair loss in the beard only (alopecia areata barbae), and total hair loss including: head, face, body, pubic hair etc. (alopecia universalis).
Areas of hair loss in patients with alopecia areata are usually well defined, rounded patches. Like most autoimmune diseases, it occurs due to the body’s inability to differentiate between its own cells and foreign cells. This leads to the body attacking its own cells, in this case, the anagen hair follicles. Alopecia areata is pretty rare (affecting 0.1 – 0.2% of people) so it’s unlikely alopecia areata is the reason for your hair loss. It is, however, more likely if you have other autoimmune diseases or have family members with alopecia areata or other autoimmune diseases.
Thoroughly examine the pattern of your hair loss, and if you believe your hair loss is occurring in well defined, circular patches, you may, in fact, have alopecia areata. Ask your GP to have a look and perhaps refer you to a specialist.
If it is determined that alopecia areata is the reason for your hair loss, don’t fret, because often the condition will fix itself within a few months to a year. There are also medications (most commonly corticosteroids) that you can take to speed up the return of your hair. You may get flare ups from time to time, especially during periods of stress, so it’s important to keep yourself happy and healthy.
Androgenic Alopecia. Androgenic alopecia is also known as male pattern baldness. This actually IS likely to be your problem as unlike alopecia areata, it affects up to 70% of men. If this is your problem, you’re likely to have noticed a receding hair line as well as at the top of your crown. Think of it as sort of a horseshoe of hair around your head, the front and top missing.
Visit your GP for a general health check and mention you are experiencing thinning hair. A blood test can be ordered which could rule out other possible causes. The bad news about this one, though, is that there is currently no cure. While there are some products that may increase hair regrowth for the time you are using them, they never actually reverse the issue in any permanent way.
Be careful not to buy into the vast array of expensive chemical lotions, potions and drops that are supposed to regrow your hair – they have a very limited efficacy. Your doctor may recommend some dietary changes and/or supplements to ensure that there’s nothing else causing your hair loss, but for the most part, you’re going to want to invest in a cotton hair fibre like Nut Job which will cover any thinning patches you may have.
Non-Alopecia Hair Loss
We often see the following types of hair loss in women, since women with thinning hair are much more likely to look for causes and solutions. However, they can also happen to men.
So what if you don’t think you have alopecia and you are not a guy who believes he is balding yet? Why is your hair falling out!? Well, there could be a number of reasons. The good news about these problem causes is that they are usually temporary and can fix themselves!
Telogen Effluvium. Just like androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium is really common. This occurs when your body has been through a period of stress. This could mean emotional stress like a divorce or losing your job or it could mean physical stress like major surgery or dramatic weight loss. Your body reckons your hair is pretty unimportant, so as soon as you go through a stressful event and your body needs to assign resources all around your body, it pretty quickly stops seeing hair as a priority.
You may be thinking, “well this isn’t me. Life’s good at the moment.” Well, your hair goes through various phases, so it may be weeks or even months until your hair reacts to your stress. Think back three months or so, perhaps the issue happened back then. The good news, if this is your problem, is that once your body has regained its equilibrium your hair is very likely to come back. You can’t really speed it up, but you can use Nut Job to cover your thinning areas.
Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies. Though this is more common in women, it’s possible that low iron and/or B12 could be your problem. Your doctor can verify this for you with a quick blood test. Like telogen effluvium, once your deficiencies are corrected, your hair will return on its own. And you guessed it, Nut Job will work perfectly to hide your thin patches until that happens.
For women with thinning hair, more information can be found at The Australian Women's Hair Loss blog.