Interview transcription:

We interviewed Dr Penelope Pratsou to find out about hair loss – also known as alopecia – and its causes. 

What is alopecia and what can cause it?

Penelope Pratsou: Alopecia essentially means hair loss. Hair loss is a fact of life for many. Some people will just accept it, while others will seek out treatment. There are a considerable number of different reasons for hair loss. We broadly divide them into those that don’t cause any scarring – known as the non-scarring alopecias – and those that do cause scarring – known as the scarring types of alopecia. I see a healthy proportion of each.

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What is non-scarring alopecia?

Penelope Pratsou: Androgenetic alopecia, which is common in both men and woman is non-scarring. I tend to see a lot of women with this type and we know that sensitivity of the hair follicles to hormones often plays a big part in this.

Alopecia areata is another kind of non-scarring alopecia which is an autoimmune condition that tends to affect mainly young adults and children. This is where you lose patches of hair quite unexpectedly because your immune system plays up. It can affect you at any point.

There are other types of non-scarring hair loss. Diagnosing these is dependent on your history and an assessment.

What is scarring alopecia?

Penelope Pratsou: I also see patients that have scarring hair loss. This is a different kettle of fish altogether. These patients often have other skin problems like lupus or lichen planus where they get patches of hair loss accompanied by scarring that affects the scalp. This is an intensely itchy inflammatory skin condition that is present deep within the skin.

If you experience unexpected hair loss, it is so important that you have an assessment with someone who has a genuine interest in hair loss so that you can be put into a category and treated. Find out how to prevent hair loss here.

If you have any of the symptoms or conditions that we’ve just discussed, we invite you to book a consultation with Dr Penelope Pratsou where she’ll be able to assess your condition and give you a suitable treatment plan.

About the author

Dr Penelope Pratsou | Consultant Dermatologist

MBChB, MRCP (UK) (Dermatology)

I’m Dr Penelope Pratsou, a skilled independent Consultant Dermatologist based in Berkshire. I have specialist expertise in the diagnosis and management of all skin cancers, and in performing mole checks. I’m a trained skin surgeon and remove skin cancers, moles, skin tags, cysts and warts.

I also have invaluable experience in dealing with all skin conditions, from the common skin complaints of acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, to the rarer and more complex skin problems, having seen it all through years of NHS work.

After I obtained my Membership to the Royal College of Physicians, I undertook rigorous specialist training in dermatology, before being appointed as a Consultant Dermatologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading. There, I helped set up and lead a busy clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of suspected skin cancer. I was also actively involved in supervising and training both dermatology and GP trainees.

Alongside my increasingly busy private practice, I have maintained an NHS practice in Oxford in order to continue to engage with challenging cases and to develop my specialist interest in skin allergy.