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Alopecia part 1 – types and causes of hair loss

The problem of alopecia, i.e. excessive hair loss, is usually associated with the elderly and it is age that explains this phenomenon. Unfortunately, baldness affects younger and younger people, both men and women. To a large extent, the reasons are environmental conditions and the ever faster pace of life, and with it increasing stress. So let’s take a look at the types of baldness among women and men.

Hair is one of the elements of our image, therefore its excessive loss is associated with discomfort for both women and men. Visible hair loss and any thinning you are experiencing are the first signs of concern. However, before we go to a dermatologist who will help diagnose our problem and propose an appropriate treatment, it is worth learning more about hair in order to fully understand the problem.

Hair density is primarily a hereditary trait, each of us has a different predisposition to the number and rate of hair growth, but their structure is the same for all of us. Hair follicles, i.e. the places from which hair grows, are located in the dermis and are surrounded by nutritional vessels and nerves, and their damage causes permanent hair loss. 

We can distinguish three phases of hair growth – anagen, telogen, catagen. This cycle is asynchronous, which means that there is no temporary hair loss, only each hair grows at a different rate.. 

  • Anangenic phase – it is the most important and the longest phase of hair growth, as much as 80-90% of all hair on the scalp is in this phase. This is the period during which the hair is permanently attached to the hair follicle and grows gradually thanks to the nutrients provided. Depending on the lifestyle and health condition, the phase lasts approximately 6 years on average.
  • Catagen Phase – Lasts approximately 3 weeks and affects approximately 1-3% of body hair. In this phase, the hair dies, separates from the hair follicle, shrinks it, and then the hair slowly comes out of it.
  • Telogen phase – or the resting phase. This is the time when the hair follicle remains empty, no new hair grows in it, but its regeneration takes place. This period can last even 2-4 months and covers about 10-15% of the hair

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Knowing the basics of hair structure and life phases, we can focus on the types and causes of excessive hair loss. We distinguish between two basic and the most common causes of alopecia, namely plaques and androgens.

Alopecia areata is caused by chronic inflammation of the skin, as a result of which the hair follicles are damaged and the hair falls out. This phenomenon usually occurs quite suddenly and is autoimmune. The body then treats the hair follicles as a foreign body and tries to eliminate them. Alopecia areata can affect not only the hair of the head, but also the eyebrows, eyelashes, chin, armpits and pubic hair. Genetic determinants are also very important, as are high levels of stress and strong nervous tension, which results in the effects of systemic disorders.

A typical symptom of alopecia areata are single, completely hairless foci with no visible signs of inflammation on the scalp. They can reach a size of 5-10 cm and appear on a limited area of the scalp. This ailment affects both women, men and children.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in both women and men. In men, this type of hair loss is caused by a hypersensitivity to androgens, i.e. testosterone derivatives that weaken the hair follicles. As a result, the hair growth phase is shortened and the hair becomes excessively thin and falls out until it becomes completely bald. This problem is noticeable at first in the front of the head, at the hairline where the bends appear, and then at the top of the head. Androgenetic alopecia is genetically determined, but environmental determinants have a large impact on the progression of hair loss.

Androgenetic alopecia in women takes the form of hair thinning, which can be more or less intense (in extreme cases, the scalp is visible). The cause of this phenomenon is also the body’s reaction to androgens, i.e. male sex hormones, the mere presence of which in the female body is completely normal. 

Other causes of female androgenetic alopecia are menopause – a decrease in estrogen levels while the level of androgens remains unchanged.

Modern medicine is able to deal with the problem of hair loss, which can undoubtedly be a very troublesome ailment for both women and men. Of course, the first and most important step to cure any disease is an appropriate diagnosis and finding the causes of the condition. Today’s technology in medicine allows for an in-depth examination of the condition of our hair and scalp and the appropriate treatment. You can read about how to make a diagnosis and what are the methods of treating baldness in the next post on our blog.