Forms of Alopecia

Forms of Alopecia

There are many different types of alopecia, all with unique causes and symptoms. This article will explain the three most common reasons for hair loss in humans, including expectations.

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hair thinning or total baldness. Some people experience it episodically, like when they get stress-induced alopecia (or telogen effluvium). Other people experience lifelong or chronic alopecia that can be permanent if not treated properly. The number one cause of it is genetics - you're born with an immune system that attacks your own body in response to something else, like hormones or stressors.


A few other common causes of alopecia include:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Lupus and thyroid disorders.
  • Infections like molluscum contagiosum or herpes simplex virus.
  • Autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata or lichen planopilaris.


Alopecia Areata is the most common type of hair loss in humans. It's an autoimmune disease in which your body's immune system attacks your hair follicles. Several different types of Alopecia Areata affect other parts of your body - all involve hair loss. This is one of the most manageable hair disorders to treat - many people don't even need to take medicine to stop hair loss.


Types of Alopecia Areata:

Alopecia Totalis: Also known as "Alopecia Universalis", this type of alopecia is the most severe form and is permanent. Generally, hair will appear to grow back, but it will be brittle and thin. Hair loss can occur at any age. The hair closest to the scalp (on the head and beard) first loses its colour or grows white and hard. This form of alopecia is caused by a condition called telogen effluvium; this occurs when your body's natural cycle of hair growth changes. Rather than growing for 3 - 6 years and resting for two months, your hair will grow until it is shed naturally, without ever stopping.


Alopecia Areata: The most common type of alopecia totalis. It is also known as androgenic alopecia because hair loss is very similar to male pattern baldness. The hair loss can be limited to the scalp or affect the entire body. Hair grows back slower, thinner, and lighter in colour. People with this type of alopecia often have a family history of autoimmune disease or allergies. Women are more likely to have this form than men, usually due to having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).


Alopecia Universalis: This is the most severe form of alopecia, and it's also known as "Congenital Alopecia Totalis." It's rare - it affects about 1 in 100,000 people. People with this type of alopecia never grow hair again after losing it for the first time. Hair is absent everywhere on the body (eyelashes, eyebrows, etc.)


Alopecia Areata has three subtypes that are distinguished by their causes or treatments. Other causes include infections, trauma, malnutrition, autoimmune disorders, stress, hormonal imbalances.


1 - Alopecia Areata (Autoimmune)

Alopecia Areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease. Unlike many autoimmune disorders, it's not heritable - it occurs when someone with a healthy immune system experiences something that triggers an attack on hair follicles. AA is most common in children and young adults under age 25, but it appears to affect men more than women. For some people, the attacks stop before they go bald, only affecting the scalp only temporarily. For others, there are extended periods of remission between attacks that eventually lead to permanent hair loss. Alopecia areata is relatively rare - about 6% of people have it at any given time. Up to 30% of people with alopecia areata have a family history of the condition. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that affects the immune system, causing it to attack hair follicles. This leads to hair loss over most, if not all, of the body.


2 - Alopecia Areata (Telogen Effluvium)

This type of alopecia occurs when hair is lost from the scalp, and the rest of the body grows back over time. Hair can fall out in clumps, or you can lose half your inch all at once like an "episodic" event (meaning it happens only under certain conditions). It is believed that this type of alopecia is caused by emotional or physical stress, such as surgery, illness, or childbirth.


3 - Alopecia Universalis (AAU)

This form of AA can be permanent. Children are usually affected by autoimmune disorders long before they're diagnosed with alopecia areata. If you notice your child's hair thinning or loss after age 3, then see an MD right away because it could be a sign of more severe disease. Children with autoimmune disorders may develop rashes and even respiratory issues before their hair starts thinning. Once your child's hair goes completely bald, it will never grow back.


Alopecia Totalis is one of the most severe forms of pattern hair loss. It generally begins with patchy alopecia areata, which leads to diffuse loss of scalp hair. People with this form of alopecia areata continually lose their hair - it falls out, grows back, falls out again, and then won't come back at all. Your immune system is attacking your own body by mistake - something else must be triggering it. The best way to find out what triggers your immune system to attack itself is to visit a dermatologist - they can run tests to help identify what's causing it.


Alopecia areata (pronounced ah-lop-ee-uh) is also called "patchy" alopecia. It is the most common type of hair loss in young adults - up to 30% of people who experience hair loss have alopecia areata. There are several subtypes of this condition, which can affect different areas of the body. People with alopecia areata may lose all their hair (acute form), only some (recurring condition), or just certain parts (a partial form). The scalp is usually affected first, but sometimes other areas on the body will be affected. 

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