Alopecia is a condition characterized by hair loss in some or all areas of the body. Hair loss can be a natural process that occurs with age, but also can be caused by hormonal changes, auto-immune diseases, and genetics. Alopecia commonly affects the arms, legs, genital areas, armpits, and chest. Humans have up to 150,000 hairs on their head and normally lose about 100 hairs per day. The body regenerates about the same amount of hair that is lost each day and thus maintains a balance. With alopecia, the body does not reproduce an equal amount of hair that is lost, and the hair begins to thin. Alopecia can affect both men and women at any point during life. Surprisingly, over 40 percent of hair loss sufferers are women. Today, alopecia has led to an industry that nets billions of dollars in hair replacement treatments and procedures.
The primary symptom of alopecia is the loss of hair, especially from the scalp. You may have accompanying symptoms with the hair loss that are caused by a coexisting condition, such as psoriasis, folliculitis decalvans (inflammation of the hair follicles), or fungal infection. Common symptoms of alopecia include:
- Thinning of hair on top of the head
- Bald spots that appear circular or occur in patches
- Burning or stinging sensation before sudden hair loss
- Redness, swelling, and open sores
- Scaly patches of skin on the scalp