Alopecia (Hair Loss)

Hair loss, or alopecia, can be caused by a number of factors. This includes autoimmune conditions, stress, genetic factors, and more. As an experienced dermatologist, Dr. Liz Damstetter understands hair loss and how patients can restore healthy hair or minimize their alopecia symptoms. If you live in or near Glenview, Illinois, and are experiencing hair loss, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter and the Reserve Dermatology team.

What are the early signs of alopecia?

Increased hair shedding, patches of hair loss, and visible hair breakage or thinning are all early signs of alopecia.

Does a dermatologist treat alopecia?

Dermatologists are the experts in hair loss disorders. Depending on what type of hair loss you have, a dermatologist may recommend medications, vitamins, or injections.

Can female pattern hair loss be stopped?

Female pattern hair loss can be effectively treated if diagnosed early. It is important to rule out underlying conditions, like polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorder, and other hormonal abnormalities.

Can alopecia be caused by stress?

Stress causes significant biological changes around the follicle and in the skin. While stress cannot be completely avoided, techniques to limit your stress may improve your response to treatment. Mindfulness and breathing practices, meditation, and light exercise are all effective at reducing stress.

How do doctors test for alopecia?

Most types of alopecia are diagnosed on physical exam and do not require specific tests. Scalp biopsies may be recommended if there is uncertainty. Lab testing (blood work) may be recommended to rule out an underlying condition related to the alopecia.

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a medical term for hair loss. Often, it is used to refer to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes the hair to fall out, either in patches or throughout the entire hair and body. However, alopecia can also refer to other types of hair loss, including androgenic (male or female pattern baldness), traction alopecia (hair loss from repetitive tense or tight hairstyles), or telogen effluvium (hair loss due to a medical condition, medication or stress).

What Causes Alopecia?

The cause of alopecia depends on the type of alopecia you are experiencing.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. This means that it is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking hair follicle cells, causing the hair to fall out.

Androgenic alopecia is caused by genetics, follicular aging, or hormonal imbalances.

Traction alopecia is caused by damaging hairstyles, such as frequently wearing tight ponytails or braids.

Other types of damaging treatments such as frequently dyeing or chemically processing the hair or frequently heat styling the hair can also cause hair loss.

Telogen effluvium is caused by illness, medications, stress or certain medical conditions.

Alopecia is more common among those with a family history of hair loss or other medical conditions, thyroid disease, uterine fibroids, anemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), nutritional deficiencies, and more. Cancer treatments can also result in hair loss.

Your Expert

Liz Damstetter, MD

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Alopecia Symptoms

Most alopecia patients will first notice hair thinning or loss on the scalp. However, hair loss can also occur in the eyelashes, eyebrows, beard area, or virtually anywhere on the body. Patients may also notice thinning or receding hairlines.

Alopecia may occasionally manifest with rashes, itching, or discomfort. Hair shedding or visible thinned areas are often the primary symptoms. In rare cases, alopecia patients will notice redness, pitting, or brittleness in the nails. These nail symptoms may cause pain or discomfort, but are not common.

Reviews

“Dr. Liz is truly the best dermatologist I’ve ever been to. She is attentive, kind, and genuinely cares about her patients and their overall skin health. I can not recommend her enough!!!”

“Wonderful experience here! The doctor took the time to educate me on a variety of cosmetic options and gave her candid opinion resulting in just the right amount of cosmetic adjustments! Her staff was delightful and attentive! I would highly recommend for general derm needs and cosmetic adjustments.”

“Dr. Damstetter was the first dermatologist I trusted to do my Botox. She is both knowledgeable and professional and did a fantastic job. I will be using her for any and all of my future needs.”

Alopecia Diagnosis and Treatments

Because a number of conditions can contribute to hair loss, a full history and exam are crucial to understanding why hair loss may be occurring. Often laboratory testing is recommended to determine whether you have hair loss from an underlying medical condition. This may include blood tests to check for other immune disorders or hormonal imbalance. On occasion a scalp biopsy may be recommended to determine a more specific type of hair loss.

Treatment for alopecia depends on the precise cause of your hair loss, the degree of hair loss, your age, and other factors. Some options include:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Oral corticosteroid (prednisone)
  • Minoxidil (Rogaine)
  • Oral hormone therapies including oral contraceptives and spironolactone
  • Oral finasteride or dutasteride
  • Contact or topical immunotherapy
  • Methotrexate
  • JAK inhibitors such as tofacitinib (Xeljanz)

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Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about alopecia treatment options, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter. Call Reserve Dermatology in Glenview, IL or contact us online.

Does a dermatologist treat alopecia?

Board-certified dermatologists are the experts in diagnosis and medical management of hair loss disorders. Dermatologists can order tests and perform scalp biopsies as needed to determine the source of hair loss, and they are an excellent resource for evidence-based therapeutic options to halt hair loss and stimulate regrowth. Certain types of hair loss can co-occur with other dermatologic conditions, so it is recommended you consult with a board-certified dermatologist if you are experiencing unexplained hair loss.

Can female pattern hair loss be stopped?

Female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is quite common and can be very distressing. A board-certified dermatologist will assess your scalp and hair to make a diagnosis and recommend evidence-based treatment options, including oral medications, topical scalp preparations, vitamins and others. Once diagnosed, treatment is aimed at halting hair loss and promoting hair regrowth. It is important to stay consistent with treatment as regrowth takes many months to years, and female pattern hair loss may progress if treatment is discontinued.

Does prednisone help with alopecia?

Depending on the type of alopecia and the cause, prednisone may be a therapeutic option for hair regrowth. This is best used for inflammatory types of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, or scarring alopecias such as lichen planopilaris. Non-inflammatory types of hair loss, such as female or male pattern alopecia, will not improve with prednisone and may actually worsen. It is important to seek consultation with a board-certified dermatologist to correctly diagnose your hair loss disorder.

Will biotin help alopecia?

The average person takes in more than enough biotin through a traditional Western diet to ensure proper hair growth. Taking extra biotin is unlikely to aid in hair restoration. If you are biotin-deficient from a congenital disorder, medication side effect or poor nutrition, then biotin supplementation may help correct hair fragility or loss.