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Hair Loss Causes

The word “alopecia” is the medical term for hair loss. Alopecia does not refer to

one specific hair loss disease — any form of hair loss is an alopecia. The word

alopecia is Latin, but can be traced to the Greek “alopekia,” which itself comes

from alopek, meaning “fox.” Literally translated, the word alopecia (alopekia) is

the term for mange in foxes.


Unlike alopecia, which describes hair loss where formerly there was hair growth,

hypotrichosis describes a situation where there wasn’t any hair growth in the first



Hair loss can be caused by any number of conditions, reflected in a specific

diagnosis. Some diagnoses have alopecia in their title, such as alopecia areata or

scarring alopecia, but many do not, such as telogen effluvium.

Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics to drugs. While

androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short) is by far

the most common form of hair loss, dermatologists also see many people with

other forms of alopecia. Several hundred diseases have hair loss as a primary



Probably the most common non-AGA alopecias a dermatologist will see are

telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, ringworm, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due

to cosmetic overprocessing. Other, more rare forms of hair loss may be difficult to

diagnose, and some patients may wait months, even years for a correct diagnosis

and undergo consultation with numerous dermatologists until they find one with

knowledge of their condition. Plus, with rare diseases, there is little motivation for

research to be conducted and for treatments to be developed. Often, even when a

correct diagnosis is made, a dermatologist can offer no known treatment for the



Research into hair biology and hair diseases is a very small field, and even

research on androgenetic alopecia is quite limited. Perhaps 20 years ago there

were fewer than 100 people worldwide who studied hair research in a major way.

In recent years, there may be five times as many. This is still a small number

compared to, say, diabetes research, but the expanding numbers of researchers

investigating hair biology is positive, and eventually should lead to a better

understanding and more help for those with rare alopecias.