word "alopecia" is the medical term
for hair loss. Alopecia does not refer to one
specific hair loss disease -- any form of hair
loss is an alopecia. The word alopecia is Latin,
but can be traced to the Greek "alopekia,"
which itself comes from alopek, meaning "fox."
Literally translated, the word alopecia (alopekia)
is the term for mange in foxes.
Hair loss can be caused by any number of conditions,
reflected in a specific diagnosis. Some diagnoses
have alopecia in their title, such as alopecia
areata or scarring alopecia, but many do not,
such as telogen effluvium.
Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics
to the environment. While androgenetic alopecia
(male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short)
is by far the most common form of hair loss, dermatologists
also see many people with other forms of alopecia.
Several hundred diseases have hair loss as a primary
Probably the most common non-AGA alopecias a dermatologist
will see are telogen effluvium, alopecia areata,
ringworm, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due
to cosmetic overprocessing. Other, more rare forms
of hair loss may be difficult to diagnose, and
some patients may wait months, even years for
a correct diagnosis and undergo consultation with
numerous dermatologists until they find one with
knowledge of their condition. Plus, with rare
diseases, there is little motivation for research
to be conducted and for treatments to be developed.
Often, even when a correct diagnosis is made,
a dermatologist can offer no known treatment for
Research into hair biology and hair diseases is
a very small field, and even research on androgenetic
alopecia is quite limited. Perhaps 20 years ago
there were fewer than 100 people worldwide who
studied hair research in a major way. In recent
years, there may be five times as many. This is
still a small number compared to, say, diabetes
research, but the expanding numbers of researchers
investigating hair biology is positive, and eventually
should lead to a better understanding and more
help for those with rare alopecias.