Did you know that alopecia, total or partial loss of hair, affects close to two-thirds of men and that an even higher percentage of men and women will have some form of hair loss during their lives? Alopecia, or baldness, affects people of both sexes of all ages.
A genetic predisposition, advanced age, localized skin disorders or other illnesses like syphilis may cause hair loss. In addition, certain medications, like those used to treat cancer, may also contribute to hair loss. The type of alopecia may vary depending on its cause. Male type alopecia is the most common form of baldness. It is very rare in women and children since it depends on the presence of male hormones that is increased in males after puberty. Hair loss on the sides and at the front or back of the top of the head may begin at any age, even adolescence. Certain men lose only part of their hair while others become completely bald. Female type alopecia causes hair to thin in front, on the sides or on the crown of the head. Much less common than male type alopecia, female type alopecia is mostly found in older women. It rarely leads to total baldness. Toxic alopecia can be the result of a severe illness accompanied by a high fever. In excessive doses, thallium, vitamin A and retinoids can also cause hair loss. This kind of alopecia can also be due to a defective thyroid gland, low iron levels (anemia) or great physical stress (giving birth, high temperatures, surgery). Psychological stress can also cause excessive loss of hair (up to 60 percent of hair). This can last from 3 to 6 months. Usually, the loss is temporary and the hair grows back a few months later. Alopecia areata is a sudden loss of a patch hair in one spot on the head. Very rarely does anyone lose all the hair on the body (hair, eyebrows, etc.), what is called alopecia universalis. In 80 percent of cases of alopecia areata, hair grows back on its own.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for baldness and there are very few treatments. People suffering from male type and female type alopecia have the choice of a few procedures. Hair grafting, which consists of taking hair from the back of the head where you have more hair and transplanting it closer to the front, is one of the most popular techniques. Hair transplants have greatly improved during recent years. Today we use micrografting, which means transplanting one or two hairs at a time. The results are far more natural than the old technique of"punch" grafting. Certain medications like minoxidil (Rogaine) may promote hair growth in a small proportion of the population (5 to 10 percent). In 30 to 40 percent of cases, the hair that remains can be maintained. The treatment must be continuous if you want it to be effective; otherwise, hair loss begins again after a few months. A drug taken by mouth called Finasteride (Propecia) is now available in Canada for male type alopecia. New hair growth products are constantly being developed. Other products are still undergoing clinical testing and will be available in the future. Unfortunately, the"miracle drug" does not appear to be on the way.