Can You Tell the Difference Between an Ordinary Receding Hairline and Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia?
Many men expect their hairline to recede a bit with middle age, but few women have the same expectation. Frontal fibrosing alopecia is a rare disorder that causes hair loss along the front of the hair line and sometimes affects the eyebrows. While it primarily affects women, men can suffer from it as well.
Scientists are not sure of the exact cause of this condition, but it appears mostly in post-menopausal women and may be linked to a hormone imbalance. There is also some evidence that it is an autoimmune response. It is possible that frontal fibrosing alopecia is a variant of Lichen Planopilaris, which is one of the medical conditions that cause hair loss and scarring.
This is a very rare condition, but needs to be recognized early because it has a way of progressively getting worse sometimes for periods lasting up to 10 years.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia involves inflammatory process around the frontal areas of the scalp adjacent to the forehead. The skin may be slightly pale, and some scars may be visible. If the inflammation is active, the skin may appear reddish, but what is usually characteristic is the presence of puffiness and sometimes pustules along the frontal margin of the scalp. It can also be possible to feel a ridge of thickened skin along this margin at the junction of active and inactive areas of the disease. The inflammation damages the hair follicles, which become scarred to the point where hair no longer grows. The hair loss is very slow and gradual, and eventually it stabilizes.
However, the area of hair loss left behind can sometimes be quite extensive even involving 50% or 60% of the hair on the scalp. For unknown reasons, the eyebrows and even the armpits can be affected in some cases.
What Can Be Done?
Anti-inflammatory medication orally, topically, and by injection may help by preventing the condition from getting worse and limiting damage to the hair follicles. Since the cause is unknown, there is no real cure at this point. Once the inflammatory process has stopped it might be possible to restore hair growth in some of the affected areas by surgical procedures such as hair transplant surgery. Since hair follicles are actually destroyed by the disease process, topical medications such as minoxidil do not help the hair to grow back.
Hair loss can be a real blow to anyone, and women generally take pride in their hair. Combine hair loss and signs of aging such as menopause, and a woman can begin to feel quite down about her appearance. So, early diagnosis and treatment is the key to limiting the harm that this condition can cause. If you notice any changes around the frontal hairline area associated with itching, bumpiness, tenderness or irritation see your dermatologist right away to get evaluated and treated.