Fast Facts About Alopecia Areata

Hairbrush and CombThe basics about hair loss

Alopecia areata usually affects the hair on the scalp of the head and occurs in a particular pattern – small patches that can eventually connect making a large area of the head bald.

Men and women can both experience this type of hair loss

One possible cause for alopecia areata is an autoimmune response, though hormones and genetics may also play a part.

Depending on the trigger for the hair loss, the hair may regrow. If it was brought on by acute illness or chemical exposure, for example, hair regrowth is not out of the question. If the trigger was autoimmune, hormonal, or genetic, this may not be the case

There are a number of treatments that can help with hair regrowth. That said, it’s a popular category and though many treatments for hair loss are promoted, not all have a proven benefit.

What causes hair loss?

A person’s hair loss can result from a range of causes. These include a shock or severe illness, stress and nutrient deficiency. All of these tax your body and cause it to draw on your inner reserves of vitamins and minerals. They can also trigger the body to go into survival mode, and as hair is non-essential (does not play a role in sustaining life, but rather, is a by-product of some metabolic processes) the body ceases to prioritise it, which can cause it to fall out. As the body recovers from the event, often hair will regrow – some months later you may see lengths of new hair coming through that are significantly shorter than the rest of your hair. This is a sign the body is recovering and has gone back into hair-making mode.

Sometimes, though, the hair does not regrow. When hair loss is a result of hormones, genetics or damaged follicles, the hair loss may be permanent.

Men are more likely to experience this type of hair loss, which is often referred to as “male pattern baldness”. That said, children and women can also experience hair loss, but it is more frequently for one of the causes mentioned above.

Male baldness is related to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a derivative of testosterone. During the conversion of DHT, sometimes it impacts the health of the hair follicles. Once compromised, they can no longer produce hair and this can mean permanent hair loss.

Recovering from hair loss

People who have experienced hair loss may wish to support their body to help encourage hair regrowth, especially after illness, or a period of excessive stress and trauma. This means getting proper rest, drinking plenty of clean water (2-3 litres per day), but also getting more nutrients into the body. Fresh vegetables, nuts and lean protein are a good beginning. You may also wish to take supplements such as vitamins or minerals, or herbal formulations specifically to healthy skin and hair.

Although supplementation and healthy living will do no harm, depending on the reason for the hair loss, they will not always be effective. Follicular damage can be permanent. For expert advice, consult with a doctor and naturopath who will be better able to assess your specific situation.

Vanessa Blake is a freelance writer and health freak with a ridiculous general knowledge of nutrition and the body. No wonder she decided to study for a Diploma of Nutrition in 2003. She also loves yoga and resistance training.

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