Hair loss, medically known as alopecia, is a very common problem and often causes a significant amount of distress on a patient. An accurate diagnosis is almost difficult. A rational, organized approach is crucial, as the right therapy is dependent on the proper diagnosis.
Hair Loss Diagnosis
The first task of the physician is to address the patients' concerns fully, exploring the impact of alopecia on psychosocial well-being. Next, an organized diagnostic approach can assist the physician in the recognition of the characteristic differential features of each disorder and help to identify the cause of alopecia and guide therapeutic direction. Ancillary laboratory evaluation may sometimes be necessary to help confirm a diagnosis. Patients are most appreciative of a supportive diagnostic approach.
Physicians diagnose hair loss by looking at hair amount and hair distribution. Men usually lose hair in an easily recognized pattern. Women usually have about equal hair loss from all parts of the scalp.
Charts with pictures of hair loss help to classify the amount and type of hair loss. These include the Hamilton and Ludwig classification charts.
Different thickness and length confirm the most common type of hair loss, androgenic alopecia.
Skin problems leading to hair loss may be diagnosed by taking a sample of skin and hair from the affected area. A doctor looking at this under a microscope might find skin irritation or infection as the cause.
If hair loss is severe or other signs of illness are present, many tests might be used, including x-rays and blood tests.
- Extra tests usually are not needed unless the diagnosis is uncertain.
- You can do a pull test, examining the pulled hair for different thickness and length.
Types of Alopecia
There are different forms of hair loss. They include the following:
Androgenic Alopecia - The most common type of hair loss, also called male pattern baldness.
Having androgenetic alopecia may mean you experience hair loss as early as during your teen years. For men, this type of baldness is typically characterized by hair loss that begins at the temples and crown. The end result may be partial or complete baldness. Women with androgenetic alopecia usually have hair loss limited to thinning at the front, sides or crown. Complete baldness rarely occurs in women.
Alopecia Areata - Patchy, usually reversible, hair loss
With alopecia areata, baldness usually occurs in small, round, smooth patches. You may lose only scalp hair, or you may lose body hair as well.
Traumatic Alopecia - Hair loss from hair being torn out.
Drug-induced Alopecia - Hair loss caused by one of many medications.