Causes of Alopecia and Treatment Options

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The causes of alopecia (also known as hair loss) range from hereditary baldness to serious medical conditions such as alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and hormone imbalances. Any of the causes can affect women, men, as well as children. However, some causes of alopecia tend to affect one gender or age group more often. Treatment options for loss of hair are as varied as the causes.

Common Causes of Alopecia in Men

Most men with hair loss either have inherited male patterned baldness from family or have a testosterone imbalance. High levels of DHT (dihydrotestosteone), a converted form of testosterone, have been associated with alopecia, or baldness, in men.

Common Causes of Alopecia in Women
Although more men than women suffer from baldness, there are many more common causes of alopecia in women. Usually in women, the hair thins rather than falls out completely leading to balding. Hormone imbalances are also a common cause of alopecia in women. 

This can be from thyroid disease causing hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, pregnancy, breastfeeding, postpartum, and/or menopause. Women can also have inherited hair loss that leads to thinning on the top of the scalp rather than a receding hairline as with men.

Common Cause of Alopecia in Children
Although, alopecia in children is rare. When it does occur, an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata is a common cause of hair loss in children. With this disease, the body's white blood cells, part of the immune system, mistakenly identify the hair follicles throughout the body as an intruding virus or bacteria. The immune system attaches the hair follicles and prevents the hair from growing. Lost hair occurs all over the body, including on the scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows. This condition can affect adults as well.

Treatments for Alopecia
For treatment of alopecia to be effective, the cause of the hair loss must first be identified. A doctor will examine the patient and look for where the hair loss is and whether the hair is falling out in patches or slowing receding. How and where the hair loss occurs, gender, and age of the patient will help a doctor determine what tests, if any, are necessary to make a diagnosis. Blood tests, skin biopsies, and thyroid ultrasounds may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Once the cause of the alopecia has been identified treatment can start. Treatment may include oral medications to treat a thyroid condition or suppress the immune system or topical creams to treat the hair follicles directly. Surgical treatments are also available for permanent hair loss and some treatments may be combined.
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