Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about alopecia on the Internet because researchers know very little about the condition, despite the fact that there are several strains of it, all of which have slightly different symptoms and possible causes. Alopecia consists of three main conditions: alopecia areata (“spot” or patchy hair loss), alopecia universalis (complete hair loss all over the scalp and body), and alopecia totalis (patchy or total hair loss on the scalp and head). The focus of this article will be the symptoms, potential causes, and hair loss treatment options in Toronto regarding alopecia totalis.
Symptoms of Alopecia Totalis
For the most part, there’s only one discernible symptom of alopecia totalis that has numerous different configurations: patchy or complete hair loss that occurs all over the scalp. Hair loss can also occur on the face including the eyebrows, eyelashes, beards, sideburns, etc. Hair can either fall out in small or large clumps all at once, leaving behind smooth, circular localized patches of the scalp bare, or, the hair can gradually fall out over a longer period of time. Thinning hair and a receding hairline are also apparent signifiers of alopecia totalis. The reason for this is largely unknown and the prognosis of patients suffering from any form of alopecia usually depends on the severity of their initial diagnosis, although this can change unexpectedly and inexplicably either for better or worse over time.
Causes of Alopecia Totalis
Even though it’s believed that alopecia totalis can affect people of all ages, races, and genders equally; it’s usually most prevalent in children and adults under the age of 40. As mentioned, there’s very little that’s known with certainty about alopecia totalis hair loss and this includes what causes the condition. The most widely accepted possible cause of alopecia totalis is that it’s the result of an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system actively and mistakenly attacks healthy and prospering hair follicles, forcing them into an early demise. It’s estimated that about one out of every five Americans are diagnosed with this condition annually and the chances of developing it are increased in patients have an extensive family history of it. For that reason, a lot of dermatologists and physicians believe that it could be a hereditary condition, but research has yet to provide any concrete evidence of this theory.
Another potential cause that can lead to the onset of alopecia totalis is extreme emotional stress. When people experience severe emotional stress, the body has strong chemical reactions by releasing excess cortisone, otherwise known as the “stress hormone”. This can cause the immune system to become hyperactive and begin destroying healthy cells and tissues throughout the body, including hair follicles. The good news is that alopecia totalis isn’t contagious and it’s not associated with any life-threatening bodily infections or illness, although it has been linked to various autoimmune disorders that exhibit other symptoms.
Ample amounts of research have also shown that people who suffer from autoimmune disorders and alopecia totalis have an excess quantity of cytokines. This is a chemical messenger that’s released by the white blood cells at the behest of the immune system to attack predatory foreign cells in the body. When it comes to autoimmune disorders, however, the signals get crossed and the cytokines attack healthy cells instead.
Is Alopecia Totalis Painful or Uncomfortable?
Alopecia totalis is by no means painful and it doesn’t directly cause any physical discomfort, although the drastic loss of hair can cause a lot of people’s emotional well being and self esteems to plummet due to the social stigma that often accompanies being bald. In that regard, women are most likely to suffer from mental repercussions such as anxiety and depression as a result of their hair loss. Children may also suffer merciless teasing and bullying from their peers who don’t understand what they’re going through. The best thing to do is to educate as many people as possible about this condition, starting at a young age so that people who suffer from this condition can be better understood and helped.
Can Alopecia Totalis Be Cured?
At this time, there’s no known permanent cure for alopecia totalis, but there are some very promising treatment options available. The efficacy of these treatment techniques varies from one patient to another and can depend on the underlying cause of the condition itself. Alopecia totalis treatments include:
Using the body’s natural restorative reactions to treat the condition by topically applying substances containing allergens to the affected area and letting the immune system fight it off as it’s supposed to.
PUVA (Psoralen + Ultraviolet A):
Psoralen medicine is mixed with ultraviolet light and is usually taken orally as a pill or topically applied to the affected area as a cream. This treatment lasts about four to six months and makes alopecia totalis hair re-growth possible for most patients, though results aren’t guaranteed.
An over-the-counter cream that’s typically used to remedy male pattern baldness, but it can also effectively treat alopecia totalis provided the patient hasn’t already gone totally bald.
Steroids treatment can be administered in pill form, as a topical cream, or through direct injections. The purpose of this is to facilitate and boost hair growth and regeneration. It starts off as mild treatments, but then progressively increases as treatment advances.
In some cases, essential oils such as rosemary, cedarwood, and lavender have been known to help improve hair growth by being gently massaged into the scalp. Make sure to blend these in with carrier oils before applying them directly to the scalp or skin as they can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
Wigs and Hairpieces:
While wigs and hairpieces won’t treat the underlying causes of alopecia totalis, they’re a more affordable and creative way of hiding the effects of the condition. They also make it easier for patients to cope with their drastic hair loss and even regain some of their confidence, despite their battles with the disorder and the immense social stigma surrounding hair loss. Hair transplants aren’t always a viable or advisable option for alopecia totalis because the autoimmune responses causing the condition will continue to remain active and render the operation ineffective.
Alopecia Totalis Hair Loss Treatment in Toronto
The hair loss experts at The Canadian Institute of Hair and Scalp Specialists collectively have over 30 years of experience when it comes to recommending and administering viable treatment options for patients suffering from conditions like alopecia totalis. Not only will we take the time to meet with you and explain the condition in detail and what you can expect throughout the treatment process, we’ll also take the time to make sure you understand every single one of your treatment options so you can make the right decision for you.
Our top priority is ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of all of our patients,so if you have any questions about conditions related to hair loss and possible treatment options,please contact us.