What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is a condition that causes your hair to fall out in patches. These patches may connect and then become more noticeable. The condition develops when your immune system attacks the hair follicles causing hair loss.
This kind of hair loss is very common, affecting nearly 7 million people in the United States, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF). Alopecia areata may begin in childhood or adulthood. It is also different for each person.
If there is a complete loss of hair on the scalp, doctors diagnose alopecia totals. If there is hair loss throughout the entire body, the condition is called alopecia Universalis.
Alopecia can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race, though most cases develop before the age of 30.
Several types of alopecia areata exist. Each type is characterized by the extent of hair loss and other symptoms you may be experiencing. Each type may also have a slightly different treatment and prognosis.
- Alopecia areata (patchy)
- Alopecia totalis
- Alopecia Universalis
- Diffuse alopecia areata
- Ophiasis alopecia
Signs and symptoms of alopecia areata?
- The most common pattern is one or more well-defined spots of hair loss on the scalp.
- If alopecia occurs in an ophiasis pattern (hair loss involving the temporal and posterior scalp) or if large areas of the scalp are involved for long periods of time, the prognosis is worse.
- A more generalized form of hair loss is referred to as diffuse alopecia areata where there is widespread dramatic thinning of the scalp hair.
- Occasionally, all of the scalp hair is entirely lost, a condition referred to as alopecia totalis.
- Less frequently, the loss of all of the hairs on the entire body, called alopecia Universalis, occurs.
Who is affected by alopecia areata?
- Alopecia areata tends to occur most often in adults 30 to 60 years of age.
- However, it can also affect older individuals and, rarely, young children.
- Alopecia areata is not contagious.
- It should be distinguished from hair shedding that may occur following the discontinuation of hormonal estrogen and progesterone therapies for birth control or the hair shedding associated with the end of pregnancy.
- There are a number of treatable conditions that could be confused with alopecia areata.
- The condition occurs when white blood cells attack the cells in hair follicles, causing them to shrink and dramatically slow down hair production. It is unknown precisely what causes the body’s immune system to target hair follicles in this way.
- While scientists are unsure why these changes occur, it seems that genetics are involved as alopecia areata is more likely to occur in a person who has a close family member with the disease. One in five people with the disease has a family member who has also developed alopecia areata.
- Other research has found that many people with a family history of alopecia areata also have a personal or family history of other autoimmune disorders, such as atopy, a disorder characterized by a tendency to be hyperallergic, thyroiditis, and vitiligo.
- Despite what many people think, there is very little scientific evidence to support the view that alopecia areata is caused by stress. Extreme cases of stress could potentially trigger the condition, but most recent research points toward a genetic cause.
There is currently no cure for alopecia areata, although there are some forms of treatment that can be suggested by doctors to help the 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.
Other medications that can be prescribed that either promote hair growth or affect the immune system include Minoxidil, Anthralin, SADBE, and DPCP. Although some of these may help with the re-growth of hair, they cannot prevent the formation of new bald patches.
Moreover, the main treatment is your hair care routine. Yes! it is because hair needs some care in order to keep them forever.
People with alopecia areata who miss the protective qualities of hair may wish to:
- Wear sunscreen if exposed to the sun.
- Wear wraparound glasses to protect the eyes from the sun and debris which the eyebrows and eyelashes would normally defend against.
- Use headwear such as hats, wigs, and scarves to protect the head from the sun or keep it warm.
- Use ointment inside the nose to keep membranes moist and to protect against organisms that are normally trapped by nostril hair.
Alopecia areata does not directly make people sick, nor is it contagious. It can, however, be difficult to adapt to emotionally. For many people, alopecia areata is a traumatic disease that warrants treatment addressing the emotional aspect of hair loss, as well as the hair loss itself.
As conventional treatments for alopecia are extremely limited, studies that support natural treatments for alopecia are even thinner on the ground.
There are some people that recommend rubbing onion or garlic juice, cooled green tea, almond oil, rosemary oil, honey, or coconut milk into the scalp. While none of these are likely to cause harm, research does not support their effectiveness.
Some people turn to alternative treatment methods such as acupuncture and aromatherapy, although there is little if any, evidence to support these treatments.
Laser and Light therapy
Light therapy is also called photo-chemotherapy, which uses a light sensitizer, or phototherapy, which uses specific wavelengths of ultraviolet light for their healing effects. Laser treatment delivers specific doses of radiation to encourage new hair growth. Both therapies are considered safe and effective trusted Sources.
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