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Hair Loss (Alopecia)

The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Causes of hair loss include the following:

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Treatments for alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis

There is no good trial evidence that any treatments provide long‐term benefit to patients with alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

Treatments for female pattern hair loss

The most common type of hair loss in women is FPHL, also known as androgenic alopecia. Unlike men, women do not go bald, but have hair thinning predominantly over the top and front of the head. It can occur at any time, from puberty until later in life. However, it occurs more frequently in postmenopausal women.

Treatment of female pattern hair loss

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) as a distinctive entity was first described about 30 years ago. The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review of all randomized controlled trials for treatment of FPHL. A preliminary search was carried out in several databases up to August 2008 to identify all randomized controlled trials on nonsurgical interventions for treatment of FPHL. Studies reporting fewer than 10 patients and non-English articles were excluded. Additionally, references of relevant articles and reviews were checked manually in search for additional sources. Among 238 citations found in the preliminary search, 12 fulfilled all criteria to be included in the systematic review. Topical minoxidil 1% to 5% for 24 to 48 weeks was shown to be effective in FPHL and its effect was not related to age or androgen level of patients. In addition, it may be effective in women with FPHL, both with and without hyperandrogenism, and in young and old premenopausal or postmenopausal. In patients with increased serum androgens, oral flutamide but not finasteride or cyproterone acetate was more effective than no treatment. Topical minoxidil is effective in patients with FPHL, with or without hyperandrogenism, but there is limited evidence for the efficacy of antiandrogens.

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Summaries for consumers

Treatments for alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis

There is no good trial evidence that any treatments provide long‐term benefit to patients with alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

Treatments for female pattern hair loss

The most common type of hair loss in women is FPHL, also known as androgenic alopecia. Unlike men, women do not go bald, but have hair thinning predominantly over the top and front of the head. It can occur at any time, from puberty until later in life. However, it occurs more frequently in postmenopausal women.

Drug treatments for chronic hair‐pulling (trichotillomania)

Trichotillomania (TTM) (hair‐pulling disorder) is a common and disabling condition characterised by repeated hair‐pulling leading to hair loss. TTM can be associated with much distress and impairment for people with the condition. This systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) set out to review the evidence for medication in treating TTM. The findings are based on eight studies (which included a total of 204 people). Not enough evidence was found to conclude definitively that any particular medication is effective in the treatment of TTM. Furthermore, side effects related to medications were not well‐documented in the majority of the studies. Because of differences in the way the included studies were carried out, we were unable to combine their results to draw more conclusive evidence. However, an early trial found some evidence for the efficacy of clomipramine, and two recent trials reported statistically significant treatment outcomes with olanzapine and N‐acetylcysteine. More research is needed to find an optimal treatment for TTM.

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Terms to know

Alopecia Areata
An autoimmune, often reversible disease in which loss of hair occurs in sharply defined areas.
Cicatricial Alopecia
A group of rare disorders that destroy hair follicles. The follicles are replaced with scar tissue, causing permanent hair loss.
Hair Follicle
The hair follicle is a tube-shaped sheath that surrounds the part of the hair that is under the skin and nourishes the hair.
Immune System
The body's system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substances.

More about Hair Loss

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Hair loss disorder, Loss of hair

Other terms to know: See all 4
Alopecia Areata, Cicatricial Alopecia, Hair Follicle

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