Alopecia - Causes of Male Hair Loss

This is the medical term used to describe hair loss which is usually confined to the scalp although body hair can be affected as well. Many people think of alopecia as a single condition but there are in fact 11 different types of alopecia which include:

  • Alopecia Areata
  • Alopecia Barbae
  • Alopecia Mucinosa
  • Alopecia Totalis
  • Alopecia Universalis
  • Anagen Alopecia
  • Anagen Effluvium
  • Androgenetic Alopecia
  • Scarring Alopecia
  • Telogen Effluvium
  • Traction Alopecia

These all affect the body in different ways although most of them share the same cause. Alopecia is usually a result of an auto-immune disorder in the body although there are other causes as well.

Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss which occurs on any part of the body. This is characterised by a patchy appearance and can result in permanent baldness.

Alopecia barbae affects only men and is a loss of facial hair, usually from the beard.

Alopecia mucinosa is a very rare form of hair loss which results in red, scaly patches of skin on the face, neck and scalp.

Alopecia totalis is an auto-immune disorder which results in a complete loss of hair from the scalp.

Alopecia universalis is a severe form of alopecia areata in which hair is lost from all areas of the body including the eyebrows and eyelashes. This is also an auto-immune disorder.

Anagen alopecia is caused by illness, injury, stress or cancer treatment. This common form of alopecia often occurs as a result of chemotherapy or radiation therapy although hair usually grows back once treatment has ended.

For more information on this, visit our Chemotherapy/Radiation Therapy section.

Anagen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium and traction alopecia usually happen as a result of natural causes. These include stress, tight hairstyles, disease, illness and cancer treatment such as chemotherapy. They can lead to a thinning of the hair or is some cases, total hair loss. If they happen during chemotherapy or radiation therapy then hair loss is usually a temporary affair.

Traction alopecia is common in women who like tight hairstyles such as braiding.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of alopecia and is also known as male pattern baldness. It starts as a thinning of the hair around the temples (receding hairline) and works it way over the scalp towards the back of the head.

Even though it is known as male pattern baldness it does affect women as well. This type of hair loss is usually permanent.

If you are a woman experiencing hair loss then our Female Hair Loss section contains information on this condition and much more.

Scarring alopecia is as the name says: it leaves scars on those areas which have experienced hair loss such as the scalp or body.

Causes of alopecia

The most likely cause is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly sends white blood cells to attack the hair follicles to destroy any foreign bodies. Chemicals and enzymes are released in the follicle which breakdown cells present in the follicle which disrupts the hair growth/loss cycle.

Genetics is another cause of alopecia, particularly androgenetic alopecia. If your parents or the men in your family have suffered from baldness then you will probably inherit this tendency.

Stress, medication, environmental factors such as pollution, illness and ageing can all cause alopecia.

Alopecia is no respecter of age or gender. Some types of alopecia affect younger people whereas others are usually seen in older individuals. And, certain types such as androgenetic alopecia affect men more than women.

How is it treated?

Alopecia treatment

There is no cure for alopecia but there are a range of treatments available.

In some cases the hair will grow back without the need for medical intervention but in other cases, treatment is needed to stimulate the hair follicles into new hair growth.

The type of treatment available and its success rate depends upon the age of the patient, the extent of the problem and the affected area.

Treatment for alopecia is divided into two:

  • Mild alopecia
  • Severe alopecia

Doctors define mild alopecia as hair loss which affects less then 50% of the scalp. Whereas severe alopecia affects 50% or more of the scalp.

Success rates are higher for people with mild alopecia compared to those with a severe form.

Treating mild alopecia

There are 3 types of treatment for mild alopecia. These include:

  • Cortisone injection
  • Minoxidil solution
  • Anthralin cream

A cortisone injection is the most popular form of treatment for mild alopecia. A doctor or hair specialist will multiply inject small amounts of cortisone into the affected area/s. This treatment is very useful for promoting hair growth on the scalp but doesn’t prevent hair loss from other parts of the body.

Minoxidil is a solution which comes in a liquid form, spray or gel and is applied to the hair and scalp twice a day. However, it tends to be most effective when combined with other forms of treatment. It is very effective at treating most forms of alopecia, but works best on those types of alopecia which involve hair loss on the scalp only.

Anthralin cream is commonly used to treat psoriasis but has proved to be effective at treating mild alopecia. It is applied to those areas of skin which have experienced hair loss in order to stimulate the follicles into new hair growth.

This is a highly powerful cream which can irritate the skin so should be applied for a maximum of 30 minutes only before washing it away. It will be about 12 weeks before you notice any improved hair growth.

Treating severe alopecia

This requires a more aggressive approach. Cortisone pills along with cortisone injections can help boost their effectiveness as can combining these pills with Minoxidil or Anthralin cream.

Another option is to use topical immunology. This is where a topical agent (such as a cream) is applied to the skin and causes an allergic reaction such as contact dermatitis (skin condition). The aim is for this to kick start the hair follicles into producing new hair growth.

If none of these work then the only options left are those of wearing a wig or hair transplant surgery.

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