Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. The word is used to describe any condition that leads to loss of hair on any part of the body. Most commonly, patients are most concerned about hair loss occurring on the scalp. While there are many disorders that cause hair loss, the most common are alopecia areata, progressive fibrosing alopecia and androgenetic alopecia.
Alopecia Areata (AA) – Localized hair loss in round or oval areas is called alopecia areata. It most commonly affects the scalp, but can be found in other areas of the body as well. Young adults and children are most commonly affected. While the exact cause is not known, alopecia areata may be related to an autoimmune dysfunction. It is often seen during periods of intense stress or following hospitalization or illness. Hair loss from AA is reversible.
Progressive Fibrosing Alopecia (PFA) – This form of hair loss is seen almost exclusively in women of African descent. In PFA, hair loss begins on the crown of the scalp and grows slowly over time to affect large areas of the scalp. The alopecia is often associated with severe itching of the scalp. If not treated early, PFA can lead to baldness, since the hair loss in PFA is irreversible.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) – Also known as “pattern baldness,” AGA is the progressive balding that occurs through the combined effect of hereditary factors and hormonal influences. Despite common misconception, AGA may be inherited from either or both parents. Men may begin to show signs any time after puberty, while women encounter the disorder later in life. If identified and treated early, medications may stop and even reverse hair loss. However, this form of hair loss is irreversible and long-standing loss cannot be recovered.