WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

5 Early Signs of Alopecia That You Should Know

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on February 16, 2021
Seeking treatment right away may help to correct hair loss. Here are 5 early signs and symptoms of alopecia to watch for.

Are you noticing bald spots or more hair falling out than usual? You may be experiencing alopecia—the medical term for hair loss. Identifying the cause and getting help early on may help to correct the problem. Here are the key signs and symptoms of alopecia to look for. 

Excess Hair in Your Brush or Drain

It’s normal to lose between 50-100 hairs a day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. If you start noticing sudden or excessive hair loss, that could be a warning sign. 

Extra hair in your brush or shower drain that’s more than usual should warrant a trip to your doctor. Early identification of the cause gives you the best chance of slowing or stopping further hair loss.

Thinner Ponytail or Receding Hairline

The signs and symptoms of alopecia can vary depending on sex, age, and the underlying cause. “In women, an early warning sign can be having to wrap a band around a ponytail more times than normal,” Dina Strachan, MD, a dermatologist, and professor in the Department of Dermatology at NYU tells WebMD Connect to Care.

When it comes to men, “being able to see more scalp on the frontal hairline” is common, says Strachan. Male pattern baldness is the most common form of androgenetic alopecia and causes the classic horseshoe pattern of hair loss at the base of the scalp. 

Sudden Loss of Patches of Hair

Bald spots may grow very slowly in one area or you may notice a patch or strip of hair loss that appears within just a day or two. In some cases, you may notice burning or stinging before sudden hair loss. 

Itching, tenderness, or blistering in the area of hair loss could be a sign of an infection and needs to be addressed with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

Thinning Eyebrows, Eyelashes, or Beard

Unfortunately, your head isn’t the only place you can lose hair. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. While hair loss on the scalp is the most common, people can also lose hair all over the body. 

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, this type of condition can cause patches of hair loss from the eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, nose hairs, or pubic hairs. In some cases, the condition may eventually lead to hair loss from the entire body (alopecia universalis) or the entire head (alopecia totalis). 

White Spots of Lines on Nails

Your nails are often a clue to what’s happening with your body’s health. One of the early symptoms of alopecia could be changes to your nail beds. If you notice pitting, small craters, or white patches on your nails, this could be a warning sign.

It’s important to note that lots of things can cause changes to your nails, but if these signs are accompanied by hair loss—it’s a good idea to consult a dermatologist. “Taking action when one first notices hair loss is important,” says Strachan. “Some types of hair loss cause scarring so treatment may prevent permanent balding.”