Alopecia areata in simple terms means “hair loss” or “baldness”. Loss of hair might be on the scalp (often) and sometimes even on other parts of the body. Alopecia areata can be classified into 3 main types depending on the intensity of hair loss. First type is alopecia areata in which loss of hair occur in patches. Second type is alopecia totalis in which the affected person would lose the entire hair from the scalp and the third type is alopecia universalis in which hair loss is complete on the scalp as well as the body. But alopecia universalis is very rare.
Loss of hair occurs due to autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system would destroy hair follicles and roots of your hair. Due to this wrong communication the individual’s hair will begin to fall out either in patches or in full. This eventually causes baldness. Not all the people will have equal hair loss. For some alopecia areata would cause only few spots on the scalp but some hair loss can be high. Alopecia areata can be treated and managed with medications and cosmetic procedures.
Initial symptoms of alopecia areata are development of round bald patches on the scalp. Often people would lose hair equal to the size of a coin. Clumps of hair would be seen on the pillow or on your bath towel. Patches of hair loss can occur sometimes on other body parts like eyebrows and eyelashes. Loss of hair can also occur in the shape of exclamatory mark. Hair loss can be narrow at the ends and broad in the middle. In rare cases hair loss can affect your finger nails also. Some people can develop white patches or lines on the toenails and finger nails. Any change in nail color and shape can be the first indication of alopecia areata.
Who is at risk?
A person with family history of alopecia areata is at more risk of getting hair loss than others. If your parents or close relative have this problem then you are prone to develop hair loss in future. People with family history of autoimmune diseases are also at high risk of getting alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata or hair loss is an autoimmune disorder. It is believed that body’s own immune system would wrongly attack and destroy follicles of the hair on the scalp and on the body. Certain environmental factors and genetic factor can trigger hair loss. Individuals with alopecia areata are likely to develop a thyroid problem which is also an autoimmune disorder. They can also develop dermatitis or eczema or some type of allergies like asthma or hay fever.
Dermatologist can diagnose alopecia areata by physically looking at the scalp. He may gently pull out the hair to determine if the hair comes out in patches. To rule out any autoimmune disorders he may order for blood test.
Alopecia areata cannot be cured, but the medications are available to control hair loss. Very often, hair would regrow on the area but for some people there can be subsequent hair loss. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid drugs to suppress the defense action of immune system. He often gives you a shot of steroid injection on the affect part of the scalp so that hair would grow in few days. He may also prescribe topical creams or lotions which can be applied on the affected bald area.
Steroid injection has to be repeated frequently until hair growth starts. It differs for every person. Minoxidil is an effective drug prescribed for hair growth and it is safe for both adults and children. Some people are given combined therapy of minoxidil with steroid drugs. Anthralin can also be applied on the scalp for few minutes which can trigger hair regrowth. Some doctors would give diphencyprone for treating alopecia areata. For effective outcome, one or more types of treatment has to be combined as per the advice of your dermatologist.
Images, Pictures, Pics, Photos of Alopecia Areata :
For some people hair would re-grow on the bald area getting fresh hair. But for others it may not work well, since the immune system would not allow growth of fresh hair. Re-grown hair would be white or grey in color initially and after few days it would take the original hair color.
You can wear wigs or use wide range of makeup to substitute hair loss. Women can wear scarf over the head to hide hair loss.