Alopecia barbae or beard hair loss is a disease that makes it just as difficult for men to deal with as hereditary balding. However, this form of baldness issue affects the beard and does not follow a common pattern: when and where bald spots appears is unpredictable.
On the other hand, it is certain that all the hair on the affected spots will fail: these spots are as shiny as a clean shaven. Read more about this treacherous hair loss disorder.
Alopecia barbae is a special form of circular hair loss
The technical term for visible hair loss is alopecia – and barbae stands for beard. If whiskers fail in bursts, leaving behind circular coin-sized bald spots, this is most likely a special hair loss disorder.
The alopecia can affect the beard on the temples or cheeks, upper lip, chin or in the neck area. No hairy face and neck is freed from spontaneous beard failure.
From a medical point of view, beard hair loss is a subspecies of the so-called circular hair loss (technical term: alopecia areata). This disease is similar to its beard counterpart, but affects all the areas on the body.
Comparison with other hair loss types
To summarize the three most common hair loss types are :
Androgenetic or Hereditary Hair Loss
Circular hair loss / alopecia areata
Diffuse hair loss
Hereditary hair loss is not a disease in the narrower sense, but a genetically related hormonal condition. In men it appears much more visible, as age advances. Here the hair starts falling out on the forehead, followed by the upper and back of the head.
In women, hereditary hair loss usually occurs in the apex area (top of the skull). In the case of diffuse hair loss, the hair density generally decreases thus becoming thinner. Causes can include stress, lack of nutrients, infections or taking certain medications.
The third form is considered an autoimmune disease – the circular alopecia, which can also affect the beard: Alopecia or alopecia barbae is directly caused by a disturbance of the body’s defenses.
Dysregulation in the immune system causes beard hair loss
The occurrence of these hairless “holes” in the otherwise flat beard – is based on an autoimmune event. The reasons for this have not yet been fully clarified.
The triggers that causes the immune system to suddenly get confused are not well understood. What is clear is that the body’s own defense system is not directed against outside pathogens as usual, but rather against its own cells.
In this case, against healthy beard hair cells in sharply circumscribed zones. Immune cells direct the hair follicles directly, causes inflammation and weaken them so that the beard growth comes to a standstill.
Looking for the causes of alopecia barbea
According to current knowledge, there is a certain degree of hereditary disposition which promotes the occurrence of circular alopecia on the beard and on other areas. Beard hair loss is more likely to occur, if others from your family also are affected by it.
In addition, every tenth person with Down syndrome also suffers from circular hair loss. This corresponds to a noticeable five to ten times higher incidence than in the average population.
In contrast to genetic factors, mental factors and various external influences are the main causes of this disease. A short list of possible causes of the occurrence of alopecia on the beard:
Family hereditary predisposition
Medicines, alcohol, chemicals
Who is affected by the disease ?
This category of circular hair loss can in principle affect persons of both sexes at any age.
The causes of beard hair loss is relatively unknown. On one hand the beard growth area occupies only a small area segment of the total body area. On the other hand, this special type of alopecia is naturally limited to male adults.
Sudden beard hair loss and diagnosis
There is a need for action at the latest when fingernail-sized beardless patches emerge and these expand to coin size, possibly even sprout up several adjacent spots and merge into a single larger bald spot.
Whether full beard, three-day beard, sideburns or mustache: beard bearers are cultivate them with the appropriate dedication. But when gaps appear unexpectedly in the beard, urgent advice is required.
The circular beard hair loss can usually be detected quickly. Plucking tests on the edges of affected areas typically show that the hair on the outside of the bald spots can easily be pulled out. It is usually unnecessary to perform more elaborate diagnostic procedures such as scalp biopsy.
What are the possible treatment options ?
The good news for beard hair loss sufferers is a relatively high spontaneous healing rate. Often the destructive immune cells stop their activity abruptly and the beard will eventually grows back.
If this is not the case, zinc supplements can help re-regulate the immune system. Cortisone injections or creams containing this substance are often used against alopecia barbea.
Should the disease persist, a topical immunotherapy is an interesting treatment option. In this quite complex therapy, an allergic dermatitis is deliberately created to “occupy” the immune cells away from the hair follicles.
However, the success rates of the aforementioned treatment are hardly higher than the spontaneous healing. If conventional therapeutic approaches fail, a beard hair transplant can fill up the bald spots with natural hair. This option is becoming more and more popular with alopecia areata in the beard area.
Circular beard hair loss is treacherous, but treatable
“A man without a beard is like a crustless bread.” This is a saying from Latvia. Beard bearers haunted by alopecia barbae will usually shave off their precious “crust” completely. This temporary option is indeed efficient at hiding the unwanted bald patches.
Nevertheless, after just a few hours, those bald spots become visible again. This localized hair loss occurs unexpectedly and often disappears just as spontaneously. The causes of the disease are thus largely unexplained, similar to other types of autoimmune diseases.
If there is no spontaneous healing and none of the common forms of therapy works, then a beard hair transplant is the solution. With the hair implantation healthy self-hair follicles are transplanted to the bald spots.
Whether zinc, topical immunotherapy or hair implantation: The circular alopecia of Barba, is not a fate, which you simply have to accept. Today advances in hair surgery allows people suffering from alopecia barbea to do something about it.
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