Pathology

Alopecia Explained



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Alopecia as we all know is the loss of hair from any area of the body, and a refusal to grow back. What a lot of people don't know however is that Alopecia is actually a blanket term for a collection of different disorders and causes, rather then being a condition in itself. The misconception is that alopecia is one singular disorder by itself. There are numerous different things that can cause alopecia, and even things such as Chemotherapy and mental disorders causing the sufferer to rip their hair out (trichotillomania), fall under the collective term alopecia.

For something that affects approximately 1% of humans, most people tend to know very little about alopecia. It can also be caused by self abuse of your own hair through things such as dyeing it repeatedly too often. Also wearing it too tightly can cause hair loss, for example in plaits. In cases like this though it generally grows back fairly quickly compared to most alopecia cases.

In some cases alopecia can be caused by another medical disorder, usually something which has yet to be diagnosed by the sufferer. For example if you have an iron deficiency, alopecia can be a side effect if it is left untreated for long enough.

The most common cause of alopecia as most people would think of it is stress. Some people react differently than others to large levels of stress in their lives and alopecia can be the result. This type is called Alopecia areata, and usually occurs in random spots or patches rather then being uniform to one area. When it spreads to the whole head it is then called Alopecia areata totalis. This occurs in only a small percentage of cases of the areata diagnosis.

There is also Alopecia areata universalis, which is loss of all bodily hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows.This type of alopecia rarely allows the hair to grow back. There has been no specific cause found for this type, but it is thought to be an auto-immune disorder. This means basically that the body reacts to the hair as if it is an infection or other foreign object and attacks it. It is fortunately pretty rare, although there have been some famous cases in recent times, such as Pierluigi Collina, formerly the world's most famous soccer referee.

The hair does generally grow back slowly after the stress levels have receded for a few months in most alopecia types. In some cases however it never grows back and the individual can be left completely bald for the rest of their life. The fact that their hair has been lost is often a source of stress in itself for many sufferers, which can lead to the condition being prolonged.

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