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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.