Health Conditions A-Z Skin, Hair & Nail Conditions Alopecia Signs and Symptoms of Alopecia Among several types of alopecia, each type has different hair loss patterns and other symptoms. By Simon Spichak Simon Spichak Twitter Website Simon Spichak finished his MSc at University College Cork, where he studied the interactions between the microbes in the gut and the brain. He became interested in science communication during his studies and won a national competition called FameLab in 2020. Since then, he has been covering stories in science and tech. health's editorial guidelines Published on January 6, 2023 Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD Susan Bard, MD, is a board-certified general and procedural dermatologist with the American Board of Dermatology and a Fellow of the American College of Mohs Surgery. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email Darya Komarova / Getty Images Alopecia is a group of conditions that result in partial or complete hair loss. In most cases, this hair loss is gradual. Some forms of alopecia may cause unique patterns of hair loss, scaliness, and itchiness on the scalp or another part of your body. Your symptoms can help inform your healthcare provider or dermatologist about the type of alopecia you have. Alopecia is a group of conditions characterized by partial or complete hair loss. In most cases, the main symptom of alopecia is gradual hair loss. Rare forms of alopecia lead to distinct patterns of hair loss as well as other unique symptoms. Hair loss can occur on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other regions of the body. When the immune system plays a role in the disease—such as with alopecia areata—it can cause burning or discomfort on the scalp in rare cases. Speak with your healthcare provider or a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin, hair, and nail conditions) if you are experiencing hair loss. They can provide a diagnosis and treatment regimen. Common Symptoms There are a few common symptoms across different forms of alopecia, including: Gradual thinning of the hair on your headA growing bald spotReceding hairlineHair falling out in patches or strips Symptoms by Type of Alopecia Some symptoms can vary depending on the type of alopecia you have. There are two major categories of alopecia: non-scarring and scarring. Scarring alopecia damages the hair follicle (the skin pore where your hair grows from) and leads to permanent hair loss. With non-scarring alopecia, the hair follicle is not permanently damaged and the hair can grow back. Non-scarring types of alopecia include: Androgenetic alopeciaAlopecia areataTelogen effluviumTraction alopeciaTrichotillomania Scarring types of alopecia include: Lichen planopilaris (LP)Frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA)Central centrifugal centripital alopecia (CCCA) What's more, some types of alopecia can be associated with infections. These can either be non-scarring or scarring, depending on the type of fungal infection. Androgenetic Alopecia The most common type of alopecia is androgenetic alopecia, a genetic condition. It can occur in anyone regardless of sex assigned at birth, though symptoms can vary across sexes. As a result, the condition is more commonly called male-pattern hair loss or female-pattern hair loss, depending on the person. Male-pattern hair loss can include: Hair follicles appear shrunkenHairline recedes from the forehead in an M shapeA bald patch in the middle of the scalp (the vertex) grows Female-pattern hair loss can include: Hair thinning near the front of the scalp and in the ponytail Widening hair partition in the middle of the scalp Thinning or hair loss that occurs after menopause Alopecia Areata Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Signs of this alopecia include: Hair loss in the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, nose, and pubic hairRed or brittle nailsShort, thin hairs visible on the scalpA patchy or band-like pattern of hair lossA burning or stinging feeling before sudden hair lossYellow and black dots on the scalp What It's Like to Have Your Immune System Attack Your Hair Telogen Effluvium Telogen effluvium is a more common form of alopecia. It is specific to the scalp (instead of the whole body) and is characterized by excessive shedding. It usually happens after intense emotional or physical trauma. It can also occur after a fever, pregnancy, or surgery, or from nutritional deficiencies, infection, weight loss, or hypothyroidism (a thyroid condition). Signs of telogen effluvium can include: Hair falling in spread-out areas (increased diffuse shedding)Sudden, dramatic hair lossShedding of white bulb hair (hair that has the white bulb at the end that was in the scalp without a gel-like covering)Dry hair that is easy to pluckChanges in hair color, such as turning from dark brown to red (only in the case of severe protein malnutrition, such as kwashiorkor) Telogen effluvium is almost always temporary. However, hair regrowth can take time and require consistent care. Traction Alopecia Traction alopecia occurs when hair follicles are damaged by repeated pulling, such as from tight hairstyles. Some symptoms include: Pimples and pustules on the scalpHair that becomes shorter and thinnerScaly and itchy skin near hair folliclesPain or soreness of the scalpRedness of the skin 18 Causes of Hair Loss—And What You Can Do About It Trichotillomania This form of alopecia is a type of mental health condition characterized by hair pulling. Signs and symptoms include: A compulsion to pluck out hair from the scalp and other body regions such as the eyebrows, legs, arms, or pubic areaA repeated effort to cut down on hair-pulling behaviorHair pulling causes distress or impairment that negatively impacts a person’s lifeNo symptoms characteristic of other forms of alopecia Lichen planopilaris (LP) Lichen planopilaris is a type of inflammatory alopecia that can cause scarring of the hair follicles and gradual hair loss. Symptoms include: Redness around the hair follicle (perifollicular erythema)Rough, raised bumps of the hair follicles (follicular hyperkeratosis) due to excess keratin (a hair and skin protein)Itching, sensitivity, or burning on the scalpPermanent hair loss due to scarring of the hair follicle A healthcare provider can prescribe treatments that may help slow gradual hair loss. Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) Frontal fibrosing alopecia is a variant type of LP that is characterized by hair loss at the front and sides of the scalp. It can cause scarring of the hair follicles and prevent hair from growing back. If you have FFA, you may experience: Noticeable hair loss on the scalp, face, arms, legs, or pubic areaThinning or loss of hairs from the edges of the eyebrowsRash near the hairlineScalp itching or painBumps on the face or skin It is possible to stop the progression of FFA with early diagnosis and treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms of FFA. Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia is a type of hair loss that starts at the center of the scalp and can lead to scarring of the hair follicles. The bald spot can get larger with time and scarring can cause permanent hair loss. The cause of CCCA is not known, but your healthcare provider can prescribe treatments to help with hair regrowth and prevent scarring and permanent damage. Alopecia Associated With Infection Different fungal infections of the scalp may cause alopecia. These may include ringworm (a common fungal infection) or piedra (another type of fungal infection that occurs in the hair cells). Skin conditions can also cause this type of alopecia, including folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and seborrheic dermatitis (a condition that causes scaly, oily skin). If you have alopecia associated with infection, you may experience: Burning or itching of the scalpScaly skin near bald patchesOpen sores or blisters on the scalp When to See a Healthcare Provider Alopecia can affect people of any age. You can talk to a healthcare provider about how to manage symptoms and treatments, depending on your condition—especially if your hair loss is sudden or occurs in your 20s or earlier. You may also speak with a doctor or dermatologist if you have: An unusual pattern of hair loss Pain and itching of the skin, especially on your scalp Red or scaly scalp Acne, facial hair, or changes to your menstrual cycle Bald spots on the beard or eyebrows Weight gain, muscle weakness, or fatigue Cold sensitivity Visible scalp infections Emotional or physical stress that affects your self-esteem or mental health Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair loss: signs and symptoms. MedlinePlus. Hair loss. Al Aboud AM, Zito PM. Alopecia. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Shapiro J. Lichen planopilaris. In: Hordinsky M, Ofori AO. UpToDate. 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