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Women’s Hair Loss Information

Ludwig Scale of Hair Loss for Women

courtesy of www.dermalogix.net

courtesy of www.dermalogix.net

Photo of AGA in younger woman

Photo image of young woman with diagnosis of androgenetic alopecia (female pattern baldness) courtesy of www.trichologists.org.uk

Photo image of young woman with diagnosis of androgenetic alopecia (female pattern baldness) courtesy of www.trichologists.org.uk

Photo image of middle aged woman with AGA

Photo image of middle aged woman with female pattern baldness.  Courtesy of www.trichologists.org.uk

Photo image of middle aged woman with female pattern baldness. Courtesy of www.trichologists.org.uk

Sharon Blynn: Beautiful Things {commercial}

Sharon Blynn of www.baldisbeautiful.org is a survivor of ovarian cancer. In this commercial for Bristol-Myers Squibb, she talks beautiful things. Sharon, you are beautiful!

melanie

HHLH Forum Member has head tattoed on Miami Ink

One of our beautiful forum members, JoyceStock recently had her head tattooed on Miami Ink. It’s a lovely butterfly! Thank you, Joyce, for being such an inspiration!

melanie

Can I Pass Alopecia on to My Children?

It is possible, but not likely, for alopecia universalis to be inherited. Most children with alopecia universalis do not have a parent with the disease, and the vast majority of parents with alopecia universalis do not pass it along to their children.

Alopecia universalis is not like some genetic diseases in which a child has a 50-50 chance of developing the disease if one parent has it. Scientists believe that there may be a number of genes that predispose certain people to the disease. It is highly unlikely that a child would inherit all of the genes needed to predispose him or her to the disease.

Even with the right (or wrong) combination of genes, alopecia universalis is not a certainty. In identical twins, who share all of the same genes, the concordance rate is only 55 percent. In other words, if one twin has the disease, there is only a 55 percent chance that the other twin will have it as well. This shows that other factors besides genetics are required to trigger the disease.

What Causes Alopecia Universalis?

In alopecia universalis, immune system cells called white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles that make the hair. The affected hair follicles become small and drastically slow down hair production. Fortunately, the stem cells that continually supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted. So the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair.

Scientists do not know exactly why the hair follicles undergo these changes, but they suspect that a combination of genes may predispose some people to the disease. In those who are genetically predisposed, some type of trigger–perhaps a virus or something in the person’s environment–brings on the attack against the hair follicles.

There are, however, studies that have been done that show a genetic link for those people who are diagnosed as having Alopecia Universalis. According to MedicineNet.com, the “disorder is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. It is caused by a mutation in a gene dubbed HR in chromosome band 8p21.2 that is the human homolog of the mouse “hairless” gene — the human version of the gene in the mouse that is responsible for hairless mice.” Huh?? Basically they are saying that a good majority of those who develop alopecia universalis have a hereditary gene that could be the possible cause of their hair loss. This is great news since pinpointing a gene may provide scientists a more targeted approach to treating hair growth disorders such as alopecia.

More information concerning studies such as this can be found at:

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is considered to be an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, the tiny cup-shaped structures from which hairs grow. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere.

In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. Although uncommon, the disease can progress to cause total loss of hair on the head (referred to as alopecia areata totalis) or complete loss of hair on the head, face, and body (alopecia areata universalis).

Alopecia can occur at any age and is not life threatening, however the psychological impact on the person experiencing alopecia can be incredible. Such an impact can affect the person’s social life and may lead to a higher risk of major depression and/or anxiety disorders.

Images of Further Stages of Alopecia

Further stages of alopecia areata

Further stages of alopecia areata

Alopecia with diffuse thinning courtesy of www.meddean.luc.edu

Alopecia with diffuse thinning courtesy of www.meddean.luc.edu

Alopecia Universalis courtesy of www.dermatology.org

Alopecia Universalis courtesy of www.dermatology.org

How can I cope with the effects of AGA?


Living with hair loss can be hard, especially in a culture that views hair as a sign of youth and good health. Even so, most people with alopecia areata are well-adjusted, contented people living full lives.

The key to coping is valuing yourself for who you are, not for how much hair you have or don’t have. Many people learning to cope with alopecia areata find it helpful to talk with other people who are dealing with the same problems. More than four million people nationwide have this disease at some point in their lives, so you are not alone. We have a number of women who live with alopecias of all kinds a daily basis in our Online Community who can help through message boards and support groups.

Another way to cope with the disease is to minimize its effects on your appearance. A wig or hairpiece can look natural and stylish. For small patches of hair loss, a hair-colored powder, cream, or crayon applied to the scalp can make hair loss less obvious by eliminating the contrast between the hair and the scalp. Skillfully applied eyebrow pencil can mask missing eyebrows.

For women, attractive scarves can hide patchy hair loss; jewelry and clothing can distract attention from patchy hair; and proper makeup can camouflage the effects of lost facial hair. If you would like to learn more about camouflaging the cosmetic aspects of androgenetic alopecia, ask your doctor or members of your local support group to recommend a cosmetologist who specializes in working with people whose appearance is affected by medical conditions.

Alopecia Areata Image Photo

Image photo of what a typical onset of alopecia areata looks like.

Image photo of what a typical onset of alopecia areata looks like.

How will androgenetic alopecia affect my life?

The comforting news is that androgenetic alopecia is not a painful disease and does not make people feel sick physically. It is not contagious, and people who have the disease are generally healthy otherwise. It does not reduce life expectancy and it should not interfere with the ability to achieve such life goals as going to school, working, marrying, raising a family, playing sports, and exercising.

The emotional aspects of living with hair loss, however, can be challenging. Many people cope by learning as much as they can about the disease; speaking with others who are facing the same problem; and, if necessary, seeking counseling to help build a positive self-image. HerHairLossHelp.com offers a wonderful Online Community of women who suffer from alopecia and other hair loss afflictions that can help women who suffer from hair loss cope with their everyday activities. Having a community of women, who are all going through various stages of hair loss, offers other women an empathetic person to turn to when dealing with emotional difficulties because of their hair loss. Visit the HerHairLossHelp.com Forum to learn more!

How is Androgenetic Areata (AGA) treated?

Only 2 proven, food and drug administration (FDA) approved medications are currently available for treatment of androgenetic alopecia: minoxidil and finasteride.

  • Minoxidil (5%): Rogaine: Topical minoxidil solution promotes hair growth in several conditions in which the hair follicle is small and not growing to its full potential. Minoxidil is FDA-approved for treating male and female pattern hair loss. It may also be useful in promoting hair growth in alopecia areata. The solution, applied twice daily, has been shown to promote hair growth in both adults and children, and may be used on the scalp, brow, and beard areas. With regular and proper use of the solution, new hair growth appears in about 12 weeks.

    Although the method of action is essentially unknown, minoxidil appears to lengthen the duration of the anagen phase, and it may increase the blood supply to the follicle. Regrowth is more pronounced at the vertex than in the frontal areas and is not noted for at least 4 months. Continuing topical treatment with the drug is necessary indefinitely because discontinuation of treatment produces a rapid reversion to the pretreatment balding pattern.

    Patients who respond best to this drug are those who have a recent onset of androgenetic alopecia and small areas of hair loss. The drug is marketed as a 2% or a 5% solution, with the 5% solution being somewhat more effective. A recent 48-week study compared the 2 strengths in men. Findings indicated that 45% more regrowth occurred with the 5% compared with the 2% solution. In general, women respond better to topical minoxidil than men. The increase in effectiveness of the 5% solution was not evident for women in the FDA-controlled studies. Subsequent studies have shown at best a modest advantage to the higher concentration in women. In addition, the occurrence of facial hair growth appears to be increased with the use of the higher-concentration formulation.

  • Finasteride: Propecia: Finasteride is given orally and is a 5 alpha-reductase type 2 inhibitor. It is not an antiandrogen. The drug can be used only in men because it can produce ambiguous genitalia in a developing male fetus. Finasteride has been shown to diminish the progression of androgenetic alopecia in males who are treated, and, in many patients, it has stimulated new regrowth.

    Although it affects vertex balding more than frontal hair loss, the medication has been shown to increase regrowth in the frontal area as well. Finasteride must be continued indefinitely because discontinuation results in gradual progression of the disorder. A study in postmenopausal women indicated no beneficial effect of the medication in treating female androgenetic alopecia.

  • Exogenous Estrogen: In the past, exogenous estrogen was used to treat androgenetic alopecia. This treatment is used less often now, because minoxidil is more effective. In fertile women with androgenetic alopecia who request oral contraception, it is important to select a pill containing the least androgenic progestin, such as norgestimate (in Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen), norethindrone (in Ovcon 35), desogestrel (in Mircette), or ethynodiol diacetate (in Demulen, Zovia).
  • Hair Transplantation: Hair transplants involve removing healthy hair follicles from one area of the scalp and transplanting them to the bald areas. Surgical treatment of androgenetic alopecia has been successfully performed for the past 4 decades. Although the cosmetic results are often satisfactory, the main problem is covering the bald area with donor plugs (or follicles) sufficient in number to be effective. Micrografting produces a more natural appearance than the old technique of transplanting plugs. Patients with less than 40 follicular units/cm2 in their donor areas are poor candidates for the procedure. Scalp reduction has been attempted to decrease the size of the scalp to be covered by transplanted hair. However, the scars produced by the reduction technique often spread and become more noticeable with time.

    Hair weaving techniques are available, and, together with hairpieces, they offer the patient a prosthetic method of coverage.

  • Spironolactone: Aldactone: This drug is a weak competitive inhibitor of androgen binding to androgen receptors. It also decreases the synthesis of testosterone. For these reasons, orally administered spironolactone has been tried in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, although questions remain about its usefulness. Spironolactone can be beneficial in women who also have hirsuitism. However, the FDA has not labeled this drug for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.

Who is most likely to get AGA?

Men and women should look at both sides of their family tree for relatives with hereditary hair loss. The condition can be inherited from their mother, their father, or from both parents.

In the United States, 30 million women—or one in four—experience hereditary hair loss. Less frequent causes for hair loss in women include stress, illness, medication, diet, and pregnancy. But 70 percent of women with thinning hair can attribute it to hereditary hair loss.

Race neither increases nor decreases a person’s likelihood of experiencing hereditary hair loss. Hereditary hair loss affects all ethnicities.