Causes and treatments for sufferers
ALOPECIA can affect men, women and children and usually begins as a bald patch about the size of a coin. Small areas of patchy hair loss are caused by alopecia areata. This affects about one in 100 people, mostly teenagers.
Its cause is unknown but it may be an auto-immune disorder. While many forms of alopecia are shortlived, more severe forms can last forever.
"In lots of cases it starts with a coin-shape loss of hair. It lasts for two or three months and then the hair grows back," says Dr Maurice Collins, Medical Director of Hair Restoration Blackrock.
"But in the most severe cases, alopecia universalis, the body is rejecting every hair on the body. Alopecia totalis sees the whole top of the head affected."
Dr Collins added that around 5pc of patients who come to him for treatment are suffering from some form of alopecia.
"It's very, very common and the emotional effects are immense," he said.
While in less severe cases of alopecia all hair returns, there is very little that can be done for those suffering with the more extreme condition.
In cases of baldness, usually some healthy hair remains on the head, allowing doctors to transplant it to the bald areas. However, with alopecia, it is the skin holding the hair that is the problem, making transplant impossible.
"Steroids are only a stop-gap measure and surgery doesn't really have any part to play. It's not the hair that is the problem, it is the soil if you like," said Dr Collins.
"My advice is if they or their hairdresser notices any spots of baldness, go straight to your doctor and get a referral to a clinical dermatologist," he added.