At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we have always believed that every case of hair loss is unique, and that proper treatment requires a case-specific diagnosis. While it is true that the vast majority, more than 90%, of men and women suffering from hair loss are experiencing a genetically linked form of pattern hair loss known as androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, our dermatologists also see many people with other forms of alopecia.
Three of the most common of these lesser known forms of alopecia include: telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, and scarring alopecia. While relatively uncommon, telogen effluvium (or TE), is probably the second most common form of hair loss dermatologists see. It happens when there is a change in the number of hair follicles in the growth phase versus the resting phase. Internal or external factors on the body lead to stress on the hair follicles causing an abnormal number of them to shift prematurely into the resting or telogen phase. The result is shedding, or TE hair loss. This condition can be triggered by a number of different physical stressors, ranging from the natural hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy or menopause to a system-wide shock caused by crash dieting or physical trauma. A related, but distinctly different condition called anagen effluvium is most frequently seen in people taking cytotoxic drugs for cancer or those who have accidentally ingested toxic products.
Alopecia areata (AA) ranks as the third most common form of hair loss that dermatologists see, after androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium. Alopecia areata appears to be an autoimmune disease that functions similarly to rheumatoid arthritis, but with the individual’s own immune system attacking hair follicles instead of bone joints. If the resulting hair loss spreads to cover the entire scalp, the condition is called alopecia totalis, and if it spreads over the entire body, affecting scalp, eyebrows, lashes, beard, pubic hair, and everything else, then it is called alopecia universalis. The lifetime risk for AA is nearly 2%, meaning that two in every 100 people will get AA at some point in their lives.
Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia, refers to a collection of hair loss disorders that occur in up to 3% of hair loss patients, affecting otherwise healthy men and women of all ages, worldwide. While there are many different forms of scarring alopecia, the common theme is a potentially permanent and irreversible destruction of hair follicles and their replacement with scar tissue. Most forms of scarring alopecia first occur as small patches of hair loss that may expand with time. In some cases the hair loss is gradual, without noticeable symptoms, and may go unnoticed for a long time, while in others, the hair loss can be rapidly progressive and is associated with severe itching, burning, and pain.
If you have questions about these conditions or any of the treatments we offer at The Griffin Center, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.