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What is alopecia: signs and symptoms

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What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, causing both alopecia in men and alopecia in women. There are many types of hair loss with different causes, symptoms and, in some cases, treatments. If your hair is thinning or falling out, it isn’t usually anything to be worried about. However, it is understandable that hair loss can be upsetting and many people search online for more information about the different types of alopecia. 

Here you can find out more about what alopecia is, the symptoms, signs and the treatments available.

What are the symptoms of alopecia?

Alopecia symptoms include bald patches on the scalp, you may find just one patch develops at first and then more appear. These patches tend to be round and quite small, which could mean they go unnoticed. Alopecia can develop quickly, and you may find that several small bald patches appear on your scalp or face if you have facial hair.

What are the causes of alopecia?

There are many different reasons why alopecia develops from hereditary factors to stress. Read our causes of alopecia article to find out more.

What are the different types of alopecia?

The most common types of alopecia are alopecia areata and androgenic alopecia. Androgenic alopecia is also known as male or female pattern balding.

Other forms of alopecia include:

  • Alopecia totalis, where alopecia areata develops into hair loss across the whole scalp
  • Ophiasis alopecia, where alopecia areata develops on the sides and back of the scalp
  • Alopecia universalis, where hair loss is experienced across the entire body, including eyebrows
  • Ciatricial alopecia, where hair loss occurs as a result of scars such as burns
  • Traction alopecia, where hair loss is caused by excessive tension on the hair
  • Alopecia barbae, hair loss or patches found in the beard area
  • Anagen effluvium, hair loss as a result of radiation therapy

Find out more about the causes of alopecia in the related hair loss advice articles from LloydsPharmacy.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is suspected to be an auto-immune condition where your system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. Medical experts currently do not know why this form of hair loss happens. The first signs of alopecia areata are clumps of hair falling out, resulting in smooth, coin-size patches on the scalp. If you are concerned that you may have alopecia areata, perhaps make an appointment with a GP who can offer guidance and advice about the condition.

Androgenic alopecia

Androgenic alopecia is more frequently referred to as female or male pattern baldness, and is the most common form of hair loss in men. In males, it is characterised by a receding hairline, thinning on the top of the head and balding on the crown. Women can also experience female pattern baldness, which tends to begin with thinning from the middle parting. In most cases, it is a hereditary condition which is affected by your hormones. You can find out more about male pattern baldness female pattern baldness and hair loss treatment options in related hair loss advice articles.

What are the early signs of alopecia?

Alopecia areata first begins with hair falling out in clumps. Androgenic alopecia in men starts with a receding hairline and balding crown, whilst women will experience thinning hair along their parting.

Treatment for alopecia

Alopecia treatment can include not using any treatment at all. If you have one or two patches your doctor may decide to wait for the hair to grow back naturally. Your hair may not grow back for several months so it’s important to be patient. However, we know how upsetting hair loss can be and there are treatment options available that can help. For example, if your alopecia is affecting your eyebrows you could look into microblading or cosmetic tattooing. Read on to find out more about the treatment available for alopecia.

Medication for alopecia

The alopecia medication recommended to you by a healthcare professional will depend upon the type and severity of your hair loss. There are solutions and foams you can buy online and in your local pharmacy that can help to treat alopecia and other forms of hair loss. Minoxidil also known as the brand Regaine, is a non-prescription hair loss treatment for men and women.

Our Online Doctor service also have a hair loss clinic. With a variety of prescription treatment options to help with your hair loss. 

Supplements for alopecia

Hair loss can be caused by dieting and food restriction, so it’s important to make sure you’re eating a varied and healthy diet. Our healthy eating guide can help you know the basic food groups, as well as ways you can get your 5-a-day. If you feel like you’re not getting the right amount of vitamins for you there are supplements you can take to support your health and hair.

There are also specific supplements which are said to help hair loss including Biotin. Biotin naturally occurs in a range of foods, and is used to formulate hair vitamins like Hairburst.

What is the best treatment for androgenic alopecia?

The treatments vary from person to person, but men can use minoxidil, whilst females can use a smaller dose of minoxidil. Find out more about hair loss treatment options from LloydsPharmacy in our hair loss advice articles.

What is the best treatment for alopecia areata?

The best alopecia areata treatment will depend upon the symptoms you’re experiencing. Many people with alopecia areata find that the hair can grow back on its own, although this can take several months. It’s best to speak to your doctor about a treatment plan that could work for you.

Can your hair grow back if you have alopecia?

The likelihood of your hair growing back depends on what type of alopecia you have. If you have alopecia areata there is currently no definitive cure, however traction alopecia can be limited if you stop using harsh treatments, extensions, weaves or tight hairstyles and hair may then grow back.

There is currently a treatment for androgenic alopecia, male or female pattern baldness, which in some cases has seen positive hair re-growth.