Understanding Scarring Alopecia

Hair loss is a problem that affects an estimated 56 million men and women in the United States.  In the vast majority of those cases (approximately 90%) the loss can be attributed to a condition called genetically inherited pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia.  However, hair loss can also be the result of a wide array of other factors, ranging from thyroid imbalance to workplace stress.  One less common type of hair loss is cicatricial alopecia or scarring alopecia.

understanding scarring alopeciaScarring alopecia is actually an umbrella term that refers to a collection of rare disorders that destroy hair follicles, either by the body’s immune system attacking them directly or as a consequence of other conditions on the scalp.  The dead hair follicles are replaced with scar tissue, resulting in permanent hair loss.  There are certain types of cicatricial alopecia including central centrifugal scarring alopecia or CCSA a genetic scarring hair loss affecting mainly the top of the scalp. Other types include frontal fibrosing alopecia, lichen plano pilaris, lupus erythematosus, and folliculitis de calvans. These lead to scarring hair loss due to inflammation.  Regardless of the direct cause, cicatricial alopecia is often characterized by redness, heat, pain, or swelling of the scalp. However, some patients do not experience any symptoms.  When inflammation involves areas of the hair follicle near the sebaceous gland and stem cell region called the bulge, these vital components of the hair follicle are destroyed, the hair follicle cannot regrow, and its ability to produce hair is permanently lost.

Another form of hair loss caused by damage to the underlying follicles can occur not as a result of rare disease, but simply due to the stress we place on our hair due to everyday styling practices.  When pulling and twisting forces are constantly applied to the hair in the form of particularly tight hairstyles like ponytails, pigtails, braids, and hair weaves, a condition known as traction alopecia can occur.  This prolonged tension eventually pulls the hair strands from their follicular roots.  Over time, damaged hair follicles are replaced with scar tissue, just as they are in other forms of scarring alopecia.  Fortunately, this form of hair loss is often easily remedied as treatment simply involves the immediate removal of the traction on the hair and the temporary alteration of the facilitating hair care practices. Long-standing tension on the hair and failure to discontinue traction-producing hairstyles, however, can lead to irreversible hair loss.

At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we work closely with each individual patient in order to fully diagnose their specific form of hair loss, because we believe that only by fully diagnosing the causes of hair loss can the best possible treatment options be determined.  If you have questions about your individual hair loss and what form of treatment would be best for you, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.