The word "alopecia" is the medical term
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.
Unlike alopecia, which describes hair loss where formerly there was hair
describes a situation where there wasn't any hair growth in the first
Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics to drugs.
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 symptom.
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 the condition.
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.