Hair loss comes in many forms. It is not limited to androgenic alopecia, its most common occurrence. This is what most people are familiar with. It is also what most of the well-known remedies are designed to address. These come in the form of finasteride, minoxidil, scalp micropigmentation and hair transplant surgery. What might be appropriate for androgenic alopecia however might not work for other hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata.
To appreciate the difference between the two, a brief explanation on how they appear on the scalp might be helpful. Androgenic alopecia is a gradual hair loss condition that begins with a receding hairline. The temporal regions are usually the first to exhibit balding followed by the frontal area just above the forehead. This will progress toward the back of the scalp forming an M-shaped pattern. The vertex region will come next, exposing the scalp from its center and radiating outward. These areas will slowly lose hair eventually creating a horseshoe type hair pattern with only the lower sides and back of the scalp having coverage. This is the usual progression of androgenic alopecia.
On the other hand, alopecia areata does not follow a set pattern. It is a random occurrence where hair is suddenly shed resulting in smooth, round bald patches spread sporadically throughout the scalp. These do not stay in one place and have been known to shift spots as quickly as they came. Hair growth can also resume its normal cycle though it can progress to a more severe case called alopecia totalis, evidenced by the loss of hair over the entire scalp.
The difference when it comes to treating these conditions with the use of hair transplant surgery is important. Androgenic alopecia will almost always have a set area that would be left with hair. This is called the donor area and is found at the lower sides and back of the head. It is where the healthy hair follicles are harvested from and to be implanted onto the balding areas of the scalp. This contrasts with alopecia areata because there would be no donor area to speak of. There is no telling which location of the scalp will exhibit balding and where it will retain a set amount of hair.
This random characteristic of hair loss makes it quite difficult to remedy the bald spots using hair transplant surgery. There needs to be a clearly defined area to take healthy hair follicles from because the follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE) methods will both result in scarring. This means that there needs to be enough existing hair used to cover the scars that will most likely result from the treatment. It will also take a certain amount of time before the beneficial results from either method can be appreciated. A minimum of about six months would have to elapse before the transplanted hair begins to grow. It would take about a full year before the entire procedure could be considered successful because of the “shock loss” that can occur either with the existing or the transplanted hair.
The random nature of alopecia areata makes it very difficult to remedy with the use of hair transplant surgery. Not only will there be a greater chance that the surgical scars would be exposed, bald spots can also inexplicably appear in other places despite already receiving treatment. It can result in a patchy looking outcome because the time it would take for either an FUE or FUT to grow hair will not be able to keep up with the constant movement of the bald areas resulting from alopecia areata. This is quite unlike androgenic alopecia where there will be an expected area of hair loss allowing the surgeon to make a logical estimate on where to extract hair follicles.