If you don’t suffer alopecia personally, you will know someone who does, even if it is in the mildest form. While hair loss may be a natural sign of ageing in some, there may be sound – and treatable – reasons in others. However, even if your thinning hair is simply a symptom of your age, it does not mean it bears no emotional impact, or that you shouldn’t do anything about it. Before you can sensibly make any decisions about how to treat your hair loss, you need to understand what lies at the root of the problem. If you are concerned about alopecia, your first port of call is your GP who can rule certain factors out and may be able to offer treatment. They may suggest you go on to consult a trichologist (a hair specialist) to learn more about why you are losing your hair. What questions will my doctor ask? In order to diagnose your alopecia, your doctor will want to know about your individual symptoms and also your medical history – as well any relevant family medical history. Questions you can expect include: Have you noticed hair being shed or are you just aware that your scalp is increasingly visible? When did you start to notice your hair thinning? When was it at its fullest and can you describe that? Could you be over-styling your hair, making it fragile with too much heat or too many chemicals? Have you had any illnesses recently, including rashes or ringworm? Have you been on any medication or oral contraceptives? Do you have sufficient iron and protein in your diet? Has a close relative experienced hair loss? What tests will they run? By examining a sample of your hair and your scalp under the microscope, an informative analysis of your hair can be completed. Blood tests are also important in identifying conditions such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, both of which can play havoc with the hair. Testing for hormonal imbalance is a key part of diagnosis as hormones are often involved; if you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, your hair follicles will be very sensitive to circulating hormones. In these cases, medicinal therapy in the form of finasteride (suitable for men only) and minoxidil can be an effective approach, with many people reporting a slowing down of hair loss and, in some cases, a regrowth of hair.