​Alopecia (Hair Loss)

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, either on the scalp or anywhere on the body that typically grows hair. A variety of factors are thought to contribute to alopecia, including hormones, aging, certain illnesses, genetics, and traumas to the skin, such as burns. While women do suffer from hair loss, the condition is far more commonly seen in men. Generally, the earlier hair loss begins, the more severe the hair loss will eventually become.

The specific reasons for hair loss are not yet fully understood, and consequently there are many misconceptions about hair loss. It is not caused by poor circulation to the scalp, vitamin deficiencies, dandruff, or excessive hat-wearing.

Expert care for all types of hair loss

At ColumbiaDoctors, our dermatologists can help diagnose and treat all forms of alopecia with cutting-edge therapies and expert care, so that hair loss doesn't keep you from embracing your life with confidence. In addition to a detailed medical history, physical examination and blood tests, a biopsy of the scalp area can help to identify the type of hair loss and/or its underlying cause.

Hair loss can be classified into various types, depending on the underlying cause. Different types of alopecia include the following:

Alopecia Areata

An autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, alopecia areata can lead to small patches of hair loss, although in some rare cases it can progress to greater or even total hair loss. The exact cause remains unknown, but Columbia Dermatology researchers have recently made ground-breaking progress in the condition’s treatment.

Male Pattern Baldness

The most common cause for hair loss in both men and women is a condition called Androgenetic Alopecia. In men, this is often called Male Pattern Baldness. This is typified by the hairline receding back from the temples, forming a distinctive “M” pattern. Additionally, the hair can thin at the top of the head (the crown.) The condition often progresses to complete hair loss.

Female Pattern Baldness

Hair loss for women typically involves thinning over the entire scalp, but without the receding hairline associated commonly found in men. Female Pattern Baldness usually does not lead to total hair loss.

Telogen Effluvium

Temporary hair loss can sometimes be the result of a severe illness, childbirth, or as a side effect from the use of certain medications.

Scarring Alopecia

When skin is damaged from burns, injury, or x-ray therapy, hair may not grow back over scarred areas. Some diseases like lupus, bacterial or fungal skin infections, tuberculosis, lichen planus, sarcoidosis, or skin cancer can also cause scarring that can lead to hair loss. In cases where the hair follicles are damaged or destroyed, the goal for treatment becomes preventing further hair loss.


Compulsive hair pulling can also lead to hair loss. This habit is most common in children.

Traction Alopecia

Certain hairstyles, including braids or tight ponytails, or safety headgear, such as snowboarding or motorcycle helmets can contribute to localized hair loss.


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