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eMed previously Babylon Health


Alopecia is the medical name given to hair loss anywhere on the body, but commonly on the scalp. Hair loss can affect anyone, regardless of sex, or hair colour or type. Hair loss can present itself in a number of ways, from large noticeable bald patches to thinning all over the scalp.

Losing your hair can be troubling for many people and it can have an impact on mental health. Speak to a doctor if you’re worried about your hair loss, as there may be treatments available for your condition.

Causes of alopecia

There are many different medical terms for hair loss. Hair loss has different causes and symptoms so see a GP for more information and to help diagnose the type of alopecia you have.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata causes bald patches on the scalp, and more commonly affects young adults and children. The cause of alopecia areata is a problem with the immune system, so those with an autoimmune disease are more likely to suffer from it. It also runs in families, so it’s thought there may be a role for someone’s genetics in whether they have this condition.

Scarring alopecia

Scarring alopecia is less common than Alopecia areata, and occurs usually as a complication of another medical condition. In this disease, the hair follicle is completely destroyed and there may be skin changes associated.

Symptoms of alopecia

The symptoms of hair loss differ depending on the type of alopecia you have. Hair loss from alopecia areata is usually noticed in bald patches. In most cases, the hair will grow back on its own within a few months, but it may be the same colour and thickness as the unaffected hair initially. A complication of Alopecia areata is alopecia totalis, where the hairloss becomes more widespread and there is no scalp hair.

With scarring alopecia, hair loss is permanent in areas affected due to the fact the hair follicle is destroyed. You may also notice other symptoms on the scalp such as an itchy rash or scarring where hair has fallen out.

Alopecia treatments

Once the form of alopecia has been established, a doctor can recommend the best way forward. In some cases, hair will grow back naturally and your thickness and colour may also return in a few months. You may be prescribed a medication or topical cream to help with the symptoms.

If hair loss has been caused by another medical condition, doctors can try and treat the underlying problem to prevent further hair loss. GPs can also provide support if you’re struggling with the emotional impact of hair loss.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.