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What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, both in men and 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.

What are the 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.

What is the best treatment for androgenic alopecia?

The treatments vary from person to person, but men can use finasteride (branded as Propecia) and minoxidil, whilst females can use a smaller dose of minoxidil. Find out more about hair loss treatment options from the LloydsPharmacy hair loss advice articles.

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.