Which Hair Loss Condition is Alopecia?'

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Alopecia Comes From the Greek Word Alopex Meaning Fox The Term 'Alopecia' Comes from the Greek Word 'Alopex' Meaning 'Fox'

Name: Nathalie

Question: I have thin hair around my parting and my friend whose a hairdresser told me I have alopecia. I thought alopecia was when all your hair fell out? Please can you help me what kind of hair loss is alopecia and is that what i have? Thank u

Answer: Hi, Nathalie. People frequently confuse matters surrounding hair loss when using the term 'alopecia' so we understand why you would want clarification here.

On its own, the word 'alopecia' - which comes from the Greek word 'alopex' meaning 'fox' - and simply means 'hair loss' of any kind. This is the medical word you will often find used in the media to describe every single hair loss condition, no matter the cause.

There are a number of common causes of hair loss which have Greek, medical terms as well as English or commonly used names. This is often the source of confusion when they are all simply referred to as 'alopecia'.

Using 'alopecia' as a catch-all term doesn't tell you very much if you cannot see, or do not have a description, of the accompanying pattern of shedding which would otherwise help you to identify it. Here are a few examples:

Androgenetic Alopecia (referring to Men)

Ludwig Savin Scale of Female Pattern Hair Loss Measurement Ludwig Savin Scale of Female Pattern Hair Loss Measurement

Commonly known as: Male Pattern Baldness, Male Pattern Hair Loss, MPB or Alopecia

Displays as: Thinning hair around the top of the head, specifically the top area anywhere from the hairline to the crown; a receding hairline or a hairline that forms an increasingly prominent widow's peak are also typical signs of male pattern baldness

Androgenetic Alopecia (referring to Women)

Commonly known as: Female Pattern Hair Loss, Female Pattern Baldness or Alopecia

Displays as: Thinning hair around the top of the head only, can include the temples

Alopecia Areata

Commonly known as: Alopecia

Displays as: Sudden, patchy hair loss of the scalp

Alopecia Totalis

Commonly known as: Alopecia

Displays as: Sudden onset, complete hair loss all over the head

Alopecia Universalis

Commonly known as: Alopecia

Displays as: Sudden onset, complete hair loss all over the head and body

As you can see, it technically makes sense for the majority of these conditions to be shortened to 'alopecia', however it can mean very different things. Spanning genetic hair loss to the autoimmune conditions Alopecia Areata, Totalis and Universalis (the conditions which cause your hair to fall out, so you were right about this).

You say that you are experiencing thinning hair around your parting; this is a classic sign of Female Pattern Hair Loss. As this is also known as Androgenetic Alopecia, shortened to 'Alopecia' so your hairdresser is most likely correct. As you can see, despite the two completely different conditions - you were actually both right about the meaning of the term 'alopecia'!

If your shedding is confined to the top of the head or parting area only, this is most likely the diagnosis. Other temporary conditions can also cause the hair to thin on top but they also affect the rest of the head, so if you are in any doubt we would recommend you have an assessment with a hair loss specialist to confirm your diagnosis.

They will be able to diagnose your condition, pattern and level of shedding and talk you through the causes. They will also tailor a bespoke hair loss treatment course featuring minoxidil and a range of hair growth boosters best suited to your specific needs, should you decide to take proactive action.

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