Alopecia (hair loss)

What causes hair loss?

The most common cause of hair loss is a condition called androgenetic alopecia, or "male/female-pattern baldness". Androgenic alopecia can present itself differently in men and women. Men often develop bald areas on the front and top of the scalp, while women experience hair thinning, rather than total loss. 

Another common type of hair loss is called alopecia areata. This hair loss is caused when the body's infection-fighting system targets parts of the skin where hair grows. People with alopecia areata might have small round spots or larger areas of missing hair.

Hair loss can have many other underlying causes, and can be induced by some medical conditions or medicines.

How is hair loss treated?

That depends on what type of hair loss you have.

There is a wide variety of treatments for hair loss, including topical solutions, injectable medicines (shots), and oral medicines (pills). Sometimes surgery is used to treat people with areas of hair that cannot grow back.

 

Androgenetic alopecia –

 

  • Minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) – Used for both men and women and is available over the counter at the pharmacy. It comes in a liquid or foam that you put on your head.

  • Finasteride (brand name: Propecia) – Used for men or post-menopausal women. It is a prescription-only pill.

  • Spironolactone (brand name: Aldactone) – This medicine might help some women who do not see good results using minoxidil. It is not safe to use during pregnancy. It is a prescription-only pill.

 

Alopecia areata –

  • Medicines called steroids – These can be injected (shots), or applied directly to the scalp (for example, as a liquid, gel, foam, lotion, or cream). The medicine slows or stops the immune response that causes alopecia areata.

  • A treatment called "topical immunotherapy" – A dermatologist puts a special medicine that causes a mild allergic reaction on the spots of hair loss. You usually need many treatments to see if topical immunotherapy will work.