There are many types of alopecia (baldness or hair loss), each with a different cause. Alopecia may be localized to the front and top of the head, as in common male pattern baldness. It may be patchy, as in a condition called alopecia areata. Or it can involve the entire head, as in alopecia capitis totalis (also called alopecia totalis), and it can involve hair loss of the entire body, such as in alopecia universalis. Alopecia can be caused by medications, such as from chemotherapy for cancer. It can also be a result of an underlying disease, such as with an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and systemic lupus erythematosus. Alopecia may have no symptoms other than the loss of hair, or it can be associated with itching and/or rash of the scalp.
The word alopecia comes from the Greek alopex for "fox." Foxes are less furry when afflicted with a skin disease (the "mange") that causes them to lose their hair. When a fancier word for "baldness" was sought, the mangy fox supplied it -- "alopecia" or, if you wish, "fox-mange" -- not a very positive image to associate with baldness!
Other causes of hair lossNext Article
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Hair Loss Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
True or false: Genetic hair loss comes from the mother's side of the family. Take the Hair Loss Quiz to learn about your hair....
Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention
Learn about hair loss in women and men. Discover hair loss causes and treatments as well as how to prevent hair loss.
Picture of Female Pattern Baldness
Mistakenly thought to be a strictly male disease, women make up a significant percentage of American hair loss sufferers. See a...
Picture of Male Pattern Baldness
The male pattern baldness (MPB) form of androgenetic alopecia (there is also a female pattern baldness) accounts for more than...
Women’s Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Solutions
Hair loss in women has many causes. Menopause is one cause of hair loss in women over 50. Hormones, medications, and stress are...
Causes of Hair Loss
Alopecia areata is a condition that causes hair loss on the scalp and sometimes other parts of the body. It is believed to be caused by an abnormality of the immune system that causes the body's immune system to attack the hair follicles. Typically, hair regrows within a year without treatment. Steroid injections, creams, and shampoos may be used during treatment.
Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in cells that make up the bones. Primary bone cancer that arises in bone cells is different than metastatic bone cancer, which is cancer that arises in another part of the body and then spreads to the bones. Hereditary and environmental factors likely contribute to the risk of bone cancer. Signs and symptoms of bone cancer may include pain, the presence of a mass or lump, and bone fractures. There are different types of bone cancer (osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, pleomorphic sarcoma, fibrosarcoma). Treatment for bone cancer may include surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or a stem cell transplant. The prognosis for bone cancer depends on the type of cancer and the extent of spread.
Approximately 40 million children suffer abuse every year around the world, and more than 1,500 children die of abuse in the U.S. every year. Symptoms and signs of child abuse include poor school performance, physical injuries, regression, anxiety, and panic. Treatment involves ensuring the safety of the child and tending to any physical injuries.
Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD)
Graft versus host disease (GVHD) is a condition that happens when immune cells from transplanted donor tissue attack the recipient's tissues. Signs and symptoms of acute GVHD include enteritis, hepatitis, and dermatitis. Chronic GVHD symptoms and signs include rash, skin discoloration, dry mouth or eyes, jaundice, fatigue, and wheezing, among others. The standard of GVHD treatment is immunosuppressant medications.
Is Ringworm Contagious?
A fungus causes ringworm. Ringworm can be transmitted from person to person. Animals may also spread ringworm. Ringworm causes an itchy, ring-shaped red rash with hair loss. Treatment incorporates the use of topical medication.
Lichen planus is a common skin disease that features small, itchy pink or purple spots on the arms or legs. The abnormal areas on the skin in lichen planus are typically flat-topped (hence the term planus), itchy, and frequently have a polygonal or angular shape.
Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE)
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease symptoms include intermittent leg pain while walking, leg pain at rest, numbness in the legs or feet, and poor wound healing in the legs or feet. Treatment for peripheral artery disease include lifestyle measures, medication, angioplasty, and surgery.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also known by the name Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a hormonal problem that causes women to have a variety of symptoms including irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, and excess hair growth. Treatment of PCOS depends partially on the woman's stage of life and the symptoms of PCOS.
Scalp Psoriasis (Psoriasis of the Scalp)
Scalp psoriasis causes red, raised, scaly patches that may extend from the scalp to the forehead and the back of the neck and ears. Symptoms and signs include itching, hair loss, flaking, silvery scales, and red plaques. Treatment includes topical medicated shampoos, creams, gels, oils, ointments, and soaps, medications, and light therapy.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that are related to testosterone and promote skeletal muscle growth and the development of male sexual characteristics in both men and women. In the 1930s, it was discovered that anabolic steroids could promote skeletal muscle growth in lab animals, which lead to anabolic steroid abuse by bodybuilders and weight lifters.
There are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Tumors on the thyroid are referred to as thyroid nodules. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include swollen lymph nodes, pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a lump near the Adam's apple. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, surgery, radioactive iodine, hormone treatment or external radiation and depends upon the type of thyroid cancer, the patient's age, the tumor size, and whether the cancer has metastasized.