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Alopecia Causes, Symptoms & Management

Updated: Mar 20, 2023


Alopecia Areata

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune illness that causes your hair to fall out, frequently in quarter-sized clumps. Everyone has varying degrees of hair loss. Some individuals only lose it in a few places. Others suffer significant losses. Hair might grow back but then fall out again. In others, hair grows back permanently.


Why Alopecia Occurs?

Alopecia is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system assaults the hair follicles. When this occurs, the person's hair begins to fall out, frequently in large clumps. It is thought that a person's genetic composition, in conjunction with a virus or a substance with which the individual comes into contact, may induce the autoimmune reaction of alopecia areata.

Alopecia areata is a fickle condition. Hair grows back in some people but falls out again later. Hair grows back and remains in others. Each case is distinct.


Symptoms of Alopecia:

  1. Hair loss is the most common and frequently the sole symptom of alopecia.

  2. You may have noticed:

  3. Bald patches on your scalp or elsewhere on your body

  4. Patches may become larger and join to form a bald spot.

  5. Hair grows back in one place but falls out in another.

  6. You lose a lot of hair in a short period of time.

  7. Cold temperature causes more hair loss.

  8. Finger and toenails turn red, brittle, and pitted.

Most Common Alopecia Causes?

The reasons of alopecia vary from person to person. It also does not have to be just one factor. It is sometimes a mix of several of the things listed below! The following are the most common reasons of hair loss among my patients.


Significant hormonal fluctuations:

Hair loss in women is frequently the outcome of a major hormonal event or imbalance. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are all examples of this. The good news is that this is usually transient and not actual hair loss; hair loss usually stops as your hormones return to normal.


Your genetic code:

Regrettably, hereditary hair loss is the most prevalent and most difficult to treat cause of hair loss. This form of hair loss is usually gradual and characterised by a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair along the crown of the head in women.


Certain medical conditions:

Thyroid disorders, lupus, and PCOS are just a few of the many illnesses linked to hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes rapid, uneven hair loss. The good news is that hair grows back within a year for the vast majority of people.


Stress:

One of the most common reasons of hair loss is stress (with a capital "S"). This type of hair loss is common in my patients who are mourning or have been through a stressful event. The good news is that this form of hair loss is only temporary and will eventually go away on its own.


Deficiencies in vitamins:

Some dietary deficiencies, such as riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12, have been related to hair loss. Micronutrients and macronutrients are both crucial for follicle development and immune cell function, both of which are important for healthy hair growth.


Autoimmunity:

Alopecia, an autoimmune illness, is one of the most common types of alopecia I see in patients. This signifies that your immune system has been activated and is attacking a component of your body, a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system tags and attacks the hair follicles, causing them to fall out.


What is the average amount of hair loss?

The average person sheds approximately 100 hairs per day. And we usually don't even notice! Because new hair is always growing in its place, the thickness of our hair on our head is maintained. When alopecia — a broad word for hair loss — occurs, hair does not grow as much as it is lost, which can lead to balding and hair thinning.




Functional Medicine treatment approach to alopecia:


Addressing Gut Microbiome: Because of the human microbiome's intrinsic diversity and heterogeneity, it is important to find out the dysbiosis in microbiota. Balancing gut microbiota helps in maintaining gut health.


Infections: An illness is never pleasant, and infections can sometimes affect the scalp. When they occur, and if they continue, you may begin to believe that they are interfering with your hair growth, causing thinning or hair loss.


Parasites: Hair loss can be caused by invasive organisms such as parasites and fungi. Both of these creatures exist on the same food that you do. This means that if you contract one of these organisms, your body may lose nutrients and become malnourished. When we are nutrient poor, our systems prioritise by directing nutrients to essential organs like the brain and heart. As a result, hair follicles begin to degrade and receive less nutrients. Furthermore, parasites and fungus produce waste products, causing our bodies' interior environment to become too acidic. Excessive acidity frequently leads to poor hair health.


Regulation of adrenal system: The adrenal glands are an essential component of the human endocrine system. The adrenal glands, which are located immediately above the kidneys, are responsible for the synthesis of many hormones. Though useful in the short term, the continuous synthesis of stress hormones may result in adrenal fatigue. This disorder is distinguished by the continued synthesis of cortisol in response to persistent environmental stress. Because the adrenal glands only have so much manufacturing capacity, they begin to manufacture cortisol at the expense of other vital hormones such as aldosterone and other androgens. If not taken care of at right time it leads to autoimmune conditions.


Thyroid Hormones and other hormonal systems: When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, hair loss can result. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, which the body requires for energy, warmth, and normal organ and muscle function. The most prevalent thyroid-related issues are caused by aberrant thyroid hormone production. Hypothyroidism, often known as an underactive thyroid, is caused by a lack of thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism, often known as an overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland generates an excessive amount of hormone. Alopecia may result from an overactive or underactive thyroid gland.


There is no single cure for autoimmune disease. Every situation is unique, with various aspects to consider, thus extensive labs and a multi-printed strategy are required to obtain results.


Dr. Priti Nanda Sibal, a functional medicine practitioner in Gurugram, has successfully handled alopecia cases and given positive results.


Case handled by Dr. Priti Nanda: A 26-year-old female patient came to her clinic with patches of hair loss, and after working on her gut microbiota, balancing it, and working on adrenals and hormones for 6 months, hair follicles began to develop on bald spots.


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