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Alopecia is the medical definition for hair loss, affecting both men and women. There are many different causes of alopecia, as there are various types of alopecia. The most common forms are alopecia areata and androgenic alopecia. Hair loss can be a difficult time, but it’s important to remember that in most cases the causes are natural, and often hereditary.
What causes alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata, sometimes called ‘spot baldness’, happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. The cause of this is unknown but it is thought that the body’s natural defence system (‘the immune system’) that usually protects against infections and disease attacks the growing hair. The reason why only localised patches are affected and why the hair usually grows back is also unknown.
What causes androgenic alopecia?
Androgenic alopecia, known as male or female pattern balding, is thought to be hereditary. It is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors in both men and women. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the main hormone responsible for this type of baldness in genetically susceptible people.
How is alopecia in men and women different?
Alopecia areata is the same in men, women and children; as it is an auto-immune condition which medical professionals are yet to fully understand. Hereditary androgenic alopecia, or male or female pattern balding, are both caused by hormones. However in men, the hair loss is mostly from the front hairline and scalp, whilst in women the hair thins from the top of the parting.
Other causes of alopecia, which are not gender or age specific, include:
- 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
- Anagen effluvium, hair loss as a result of radiation therapy
Androgenic alopecia in men starts with a receding hairline and balding crown, whilst women will experience thinning hair along their parting. Alopecia areata first begins with hair falling out in clumps, and forms coin-size bald patches on the scalp.
There are treatments available in the UK for androgenic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness). 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.
Androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata and other main types of alopecia are not caused by a vitamin deficiency. However some people can experience thinning hair as a result of extreme diets or cutting out food groups; if you think this might be why you are losing hair then we advise you book an appointment with your GP to discuss this. Your GP may request some simple blood tests to see if you are deficient of any essential vitamin or minerals.