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What is Alopecia?

Alopecia (say this: al-oh-pee-sha) is the medical word for hair loss. It generally refers to loss or lack of hair on part or all of the scalp. The hair loss can be temporary or permanent. It can be only on the scalp, or on other parts of the body, too. It can affect people of all ages.

Causes of Alopecia ?

Alopecia can have many causes, including genetics, diseases and infections, and improper hair care. Some of the causes of hair thinning and hair loss on the whole scalp include the following:


  • Stressful conditions, physical or emotional, such as illness or surgery

  • Prolonged fever

  • Childbirth

  • Hormonal problems, such as thyroid disease

  • Drug treatment for cancer

  • Some prescription medicines

  • Unknown causes


With these disorders, the hair loss usually happens three to four months after the illness or stressful event. After a while, the hair grows back completely.

Local hair loss in one or more small parts of the scalp can be caused by any of the following:


  • Alopecia areata (patchy hair loss; the cause is unknown)

  • Traction alopecia (tight hairstyles such as cornrows or pigtails)

  • Trichotillomania (repeated hair pulling or nervous hair twisting or twirling)

  • Tinea capitis (ringworm or fungal infection)


The most common kind of alopecia is androgenetic alopecia (Say: an-droh-jen-et-ick al-oh-pee-sha). This hair loss causes a receding hairline and lack of hair on the top of the head. This balding usually is inherited.

Common balding also can affect women. These women may have a hormonal imbalance. In women, this kind of balding leads to hair thinning over the entire scalp.

Side Effects and Complications

  • Small bald patches on your scalp or other parts of your body.

  • Patches may get larger and grow together into a bald spot.

  • Hair grows back in one spot and falls out in another.

  • You lose a lot of hair over a short time.

  • More hair loss in cold weather.

  • Fingernails and toenails become red, brittle, and pitted.

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