In the majority of cases, hair falls out in small patches similar to the size of a quarter. For most individuals who suffer from this condition, the hair loss is typically no more than a few patches, though in some circumstances it can be more severe.
On occasion, it can lead to the full loss of hair on the scalp (alopecia totalis) or, in the acutest cases, the entire body (alopecia universalis).
The condition can impact anyone despite age and gender, though most circumstances occur before the age of 30.
In this article, we analysis of the circumstances and symptoms of alopecia areata, its diagnosis, and possible treatments.
Quick facts on alopecia areata
Here are some key features about alopecia areata
One in five people with alopecia areata also has a family member who has encountered the condition.
Alopecia areata often happens suddenly, over the passage of just a few days.
There is little scientific evidence that stress causes alopecia areata.
People with alopecia areata who have only a few spots of hair loss often experience a spontaneous, full restoration, without the need for any medical treatment.
There are no known cures for alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is a prevalent autoimmune disorder that ordinarily results in unpredictable hair loss.
There is no known cure for alopecia areata, although there are a few forms of treatment that can be recommended by physicians to help hair re-grow more quickly.
The most common form of alopecia areata treatment is the use of corticosteroids, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. These are most commonly administered through local injections, topical ointment application, or orally.
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Other medicines that can be appointed that either advance hair growth or influence the immune system include Anthralin, Minoxidil, DPCP, and SADBE. Although some of these may assist with the re-growth of hair, they do not block the development of new bald patches.
The use of photochemotherapy is recommended by some studies and exhibits a potential alternative for patients unable or reluctant to use systemic or invasive therapies.
In addition to its aesthetic aspect, hair affords a measure of protection from the elements. People with alopecia areata who desire the protective properties of hair may wish to:
Put on sunscreen if exposed to the sun.
Wear wraparound glasses to shield the eyes from the debris and the sun which the eyebrows and eyelashes would ordinarily protect against.
Use headwear such as wigs, hats, and scarves to protect the head from the sun or keep it warm.
Use ointment inside the nose to retain moisture in the membranes and to guard against organisms that are ordinarily trapped by nostril hair.
Alopecia areata does not directly make people sick, nor is it contagious. It can, however, be challenging to adapt to emotionally. For many people, alopecia areata is a traumatic disease that warrants treatment approaching the emotional component of hair loss, as well as the hair loss itself.
There are support groups and counseling are available for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and to discuss common psychological reactions to the condition.
Some have likened alopecia areata to vitiligo, an autoimmune skin condition in which the body attacks melanin-producing cells, forming white patches. A study suggests that these two conditions may share a related pathogenesis, with comparable types of immune cells and cytokines stimulating the diseases and collective genetic risk factors.
As such, any new progress in the treatment or prevention of either condition may hold importance for the other.
There have been a several of documented cases where treatment for alopecia areata employing diphencyprone (DCP), a contact sensitizer, has led to the advancement of vitiligo.
Preliminary research in animals has determined that quercetin, a naturally occurring bioflavonoid discovered in fruits and vegetables, can guard against the development of alopecia areata and adequately treat existing hair loss.
Further investigation is required, including human clinical trials, before quercetin can be viewed as a treatment for alopecia areata.
The condition develops when white blood cells invade the cells in hair follicles, making them contract and significantly slow down hair production. It is unknown specifically what triggers the body’s immune system to focus and target hair follicles in this capacity.
While experts are unclear why these mutations occur, it appears that heredity is involved as alopecia areata is more probable to occur in an individual who has a close family member with the condition. One in five people with the condition has a family member who has also formed alopecia areata.
Other research has determined that many people with a family history of alopecia areata also have a family or personal history of other autoimmune disorders, such as atopy, a disorder distinguished by an inclination to be thyroiditis, Hyperallergic, and vitiligo.
Notwithstanding what many people think, there is very little scientific proof to support the opinion that stress causes alopecia areata. Severe cases of stress could trigger the condition, but most up-to-date research points to a genetic cause.
As established treatments for alopecia are very limited, studies that support natural therapies for alopecia are even less proven.
There are some individuals, who recommend rubbing onion or garlic juice, cooled green tea, almond oil, honey, rosemary oil, or coconut milk into the scalp. While none of these are expected to produce harm, their effectiveness is also not backed by research.
Some people prefer alternative treatment methods such as aromatherapy and acupuncture, even though it is limited if any, proof to support these treatments.
The most noticeable symptom of alopecia areata is irregular hair loss. Coin-sized patches of hair start to fall out, principally from the scalp. Any section of hair growth may be impacted, though, including the eyelashes and beard.
The loss of hair can be abrupt, happening in just a few days or over a period of a few weeks. There may be burning or itching in the area before hair loss. The hair follicles are not destroyed and so hair can re-grow if the swelling of the follicles subsides. People who endure just a few patches of hair loss frequently have an uncontrollable full recovery without any form of therapy.
About 30 percent of people who form alopecia areata find that their condition either grows more extensive or becomes a perpetual cycle of hair loss and regrowth.
About half of patients improve from alopecia areata within one year, but many will encounter more than one episode. About 10 percent of people will go on to acquire alopecia total or alopecia universalis.
Alopecia areata can also affect the fingernails and toenails, and sometimes these changes are the first sign that the condition is developing. There are some small changes that can occur in nails:
- Alopecia affects both men and women equally.
- pinpoint dents appear
- white spots and lines appear
- nails lose their shine
- nails become rough
- nails become thin and split
Additional clinical signs include:
Exclamation mark hairs: This happens when few short hairs that become narrower at their bottom and grow in or encompassing the edges of bald spots.
Cadaver hairs: This is where hairs split before reaching the skin surface.
White hair: This may develop in areas afflicted by hair loss.
Physicians are usually able to diagnose alopecia areata fairly easily by examining symptoms. They might look at the degree of hair loss and examine hairs from affected areas under a microscope.
If, after the first clinical examination, the physician is not capable of obtaining a diagnosis, they can perform a skin biopsy. If they must rule out other autoimmune diseases, they may request a blood sample.
As the symptoms of alopecia areata are so peculiar, making a diagnosis is normally quick and straightforward.