September is Alopecia Awareness Month. Despite the relatively common nature of the condition, many people are still not familiar with the facts about alopecia. September is therefore an opportune time to explain what alopecia is, who experiences it, how it can be treated and what can be done to support sufferers.

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term referring to hair loss, of which there are many types. The most common is male-pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, which is likely to affect half of all British men by the time they reach their fiftieth birthday. This is a hereditary condition that typically sees men’s hairlines begin to recede by their thirties, with the hair on the top of the head eventually thinning to leave a horseshoe shape of hair on the back and the sides of the head.

Alopecia areata (AA) is another type of alopecia, which results in patchy hair loss. This can advance into alopecia totalis (AT), where hair is lost from the scalp entirely, and alopecia universalis (AU), where hair is lost from the entire body. Some types of alopecia can be the result of other medical conditions or treatments. Scarring alopecia, where hair follicles are destroyed and replaced with scar tissue, can be the result of a form of lupus or severe rash.

There are also condition known as anagen effluvium, where hair loss is caused by chemicals, and traction alopecia caused by pulling or tension on the hair.

Who experiences alopecia?

Even though alopecia receives most prominence when it affects men, alopecia is actually a condition that is indiscriminate towards gender. Female-pattern baldness reportedly affects almost half of women who are over 65, and some studies suggest this is because hair thinning becomes more apparent after menopause.

Anagen effluvium, the type of alopecia caused by certain chemicals, most commonly effects people being treated for cancer with chemotherapy (and sometimes radiotherapy). Therefore, this type of alopecia can affect anyone of any age. Alopecia areata has been known to affect teenagers and young adults in particular, although the causes of this type of hair loss are not clear.

One form of alopecia where the causes are more salient is traction alopecia, which is most common in women who regularly choose to style their hair in tight braids.

How can it be treated?

As there are many types of alopecia, treating and living with the condition can vary from type to type. Where the cause of the hair loss is clear, the treatment can be very simple – when a sufferer of anagen effluvium ceases chemotherapy they find that their hair grows back, and braiding the hair more loosely or taking a break from braided extension can ease traction alopecia.

At Express Pharmacy, we offer effective treatments for male-pattern baldness such as Propecia and Generic Finasteride. These treatments are not, however, recommended for other forms of alopecia, however.

How can I help?

This September, charity Alopecia UK is offering support to those suffering from the condition and encouraging people to raise money to help with research and treatments for alopecia. This year’s activities include Fun Hat Fridays, where people wear a jazzy hat to work or school every Friday in September and share a photo of themselves on social media.

Participants can simply text HATS44 £3 to 70070, which will donate £3 to the charity. Some people also choose to cut off and donate their hair – sponsorship money can be donated to Alopecia UK, whilst the hair itself can be sent to the Little Princess Trust, which provides wigs for children who experience alopecia as a result of cancer treatment. Visit www.alopeciaonline.org.uk for more information.