Abnormalities of hair growth carry a great psychosocial impact, and are intimately related to self-image for both men and women. Although associations with systemic disease are less common, evaluation and management of hair disorders are an essential part of patient care within dermatology.
Hair growth abnormalities include disorders of hair loss, termed alopecia, and excess hair growth, known as hypertrichosis.
Alopecia may be further subdivided into diffuse alopecia, in which hair loss occurs throughout the scalp, and focal alopecia, with distinct areas of localized hair loss or bald spots. Another important distinction to be made is whether a scarring or non-scarring process has occurred. In scarring alopecias, inflammation within the scalp has lead to destruction of hair follicles. In these situations, therapy is directed towards preventing further hair loss, as areas of the scalp already affected are not likely to show significant re-growth. In patients with non-scarring alopecia, hair follicles are still present, and therapy is geared towards re-growth of lost hair.
Hypertrichosis may also be localized or diffuse, and may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired at any time. An important form of hypertrichosis, known as hirsutism, occurs in women and refers to excess hair growth on the body in a male distribution. In some cases this is a normal variant with a genetic predisposition. For many patients, however, this may be a clue to an underlying endocrine disturbance for which treatment may improve the appearance of hirsutism.
At Columbia University, we offer a comprehensive evaluation of patients suffering from hair growth abnormalities. Our goal is to determine whether the disturbance in hair growth is reversible, and to individualize therapy to meet our patient’s needs. Therapies directed at removal of excess hair are also available.
Selected Types of Hair Disorders
If you would like to make an appointment or request more information about hair disorders please call our office at 212.305.5293.