Alopecia Awareness Support

Hair loss, known as Alopecia can be unpredictable and frustrating. We delve into a few of the types, causes, symptoms and treatments of the condition in support of Alopecia Awareness Week. 

The term Alopecia means ‘hair loss’ and most notably affects the scalp but it can also affect the entire body.  

Just as hair can differ between individuals (colour, type, texture and thickness), Alopecia can be just as diverse and appear in many ways. It can come on suddenly or gradually, it may be reoccurring and lasting or a temporary once-off. The location, patterns and progression of the hair loss can be many and varied. Alopecia UK identifies 9 different types of Alopecia with varying causes, progression and outcomes.

Androgenic Alopecia is sometimes called male or female patterned hair loss and is one of the most common types of progressive hair loss. It affects about 50% of men over 50 and about 50% of women over 65 years although it can start at any age[2].  The progression in both men and women tends to be slow, spanning years to decades. In women, the severity varies from thinning to total hair loss. The causes of Androgenic Alopecia are believed to be a combination of genetic and hormonal factors with the sensitivity of the testosterone receptor on the hair follicle causing the follicles to shrink and eventually stop producing hair. 

In Androgenic Alopecia, hair regrowth does not occur however there are treatments available to slow the effects with varying levels of efficacy. 

Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune disease that results in hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It is estimated that 2% of the population will be affected by the condition during their lifetime[1]. It is not currently known what causes Alopecia Areata, and it is believed to be a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is currently no known cure for Alopecia Areata which can be a lifelong condition, and can impact self-image, confidence and mental health. However, there are a number of treatment options and ongoing research in the area.  

Hair regrowth potential for those with Alopecia Areata does exist but it cannot be guaranteed. 80% of people with only a few small patches experience full regrowth within a year however further episodes of hair loss may be experienced in the future.  While for others, hair loss can be widespread and permanent. 

Acute telogen effluvium, or “TE” (a little easier to remember), is a form of nonscarring alopecia that occurs for a period of less than 6 months[3]. This type of hair loss usually occurs 3-4 months after a triggering event[4]; think pregnancy, post-partum hormones, crash dieting, surgery, a stressful event or medications.   

You may have experienced acute TE in the past and are curious to find out more, or perhaps you are experiencing a higher-than-usual rate of hair fall and think a triggering event or medication may be the culprit.

Acute TE is known as a ‘self limited’ condition meaning it runs a definite and limited course, lasting about 6 months[3]. In other words, acute TE is temporary once the triggering factor is identified and removed, but patience will be required following an episode of significant hair loss. An understanding of acute TE’s temporary nature as well as the normal hair cycle and growth phases can help reduce anxiety and manage expectations about what a realistic recovery process will look like. 

Alopecia support

A diagnosis of Alopecia from your doctor or dermatologist can be life changing, and affect many areas of a person’s life. There are an abundance of emotional and psychological support services, wellbeing, relaxation and appearance tips as well as up-to-date research and information provided by reputable organisations and support groups worldwide, who dedicate their time and resources to helping individuals to live well with Alopecia. 

To support ‘Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation’, visit: aaaf.org.au

Sources

1 Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation (AAAF). Accessed: https://aaaf.org.au/about-alopecia-areata/

2 Alopecia UK, All About Alopecia Booklet. Accessed: 

https://alopecia-uk.kpstudio.co.uk/4-1 

3 Malkud S, Telogen Effluvium: A review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/

4 Asghar F et al, Telogen Effluvium: A review of the literature. Cureus. 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320655/ 

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