Question: What is senescent alopecia please? Can women get it?
Answer: Hi Heather. Senescent alopecia – also known as Involutional alopecia – was the name given to hair loss caused by ‘old age’. It is thought to present in men and women aged 50 or over – which is not old these days! – who, despite having no family history of genetic hair loss, start to experience thinning hair.
Senescent alopecia is said to present as diffuse thinning across the whole scalp, as the hair slowly thins, but shows no evidence of the increased miniaturisation associated with Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss. Genetic hair loss also only affects the top of the head, whereas thinning across the whole scalp is generally a sign of Chronic Telogen Effluvium which is also known as ‘Diffuse Hair Loss’ or ‘Diffuse Alopecia’.
It is worth noting that no Belgravia client has ever been diagnosed with this type of ‘hair loss from old age’, although we do see many cases of Diffuse Hair Loss. Senescent alopecia is not generally recognised as a hair loss condition as more research is needed in this area. In fact, a 2011 study found that senescent alopecia may not exist at all, stating that the data suggests ‘most cases of significant hair loss in the elderly are androgen driven. The few patients with deteriorating diffuse alopecia may be the exception’.
The reported study involved examining 2149 scalp specimens from individuals aged 20 to 99, with androgenic alopecia and diffuse alopecia, as well as from normal controls. The subjects underwent a hair follicle count and were then grouped by decade.
When analysing the different groups’ hair counts, a reduction of 15 per cent below baseline – where the baseline was taken from the follicular counts of the group containing individuals aged 20 to 29 – was considered significant.
The research found that for 10.6 per cent of the individuals with male pattern hair loss, their follicular count undergoes a ‘significant reduction’ at 50 years of age. In contrast, for women with female pattern hair loss, 5.7 per cent of those studied experienced significant deterioration at 70 years of age. Lastly, for the 2 per cent of test subjects with diffuse thinning, this reduction occurred at 80 years of age. As such, the study concluded that old age is not a significant cause of hair loss.
Although this is not definitive proof that senescent alopecia does not exist, it does add weight to the argument so if you are shedding more than usual, it is worth speaking to a hair loss specialist. They will be able to diagnose your condition and recommend the best way to deal with it, from tailoring a bespoke hair loss treatment plan to providing holistic lifestyle advice and support throughout your regrowth journey.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.