Alopecia Areata is a medical condition that causes your hair to fall in small patches.
Moreover, these patches are often un-noticeable and may connect.
This condition is the result of the immune system attacking your hair follicles, thus causing hair loss.
In some cases, sudden patches of hair loss can occur on the scalp, and even on your eyebrows, eyelashes, or face.
It can also recur and slowly develop after years.
Thus, it can result in complete hair loss or Alopecia Universalis and can prevent hair from growing back.
When they do grow back, they may fall out again.
However, the extent of hair loss and regrowth varies from one person to another.
To this date, there is no cure for Alopecia.
However, different treatments like micro-blading can help hair grow back more quickly and thus can prevent future hair loss.
Read more to find about the causes, symptoms, treatments, and much more about Alopecia Areata
Causes of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder.
This develops when your immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells as think of them as foreign particles like bacteria or viruses.
If you develop Alopecia Areata, then your immune system attacks the hair follicles on the scalp.
Hair follicles are the structures from which your hair grows, and during this condition, your hair follicles shrink and stop producing hair.
Thus, it leads to hair loss.
Researchers have not been able to identify the causes of this condition.
However, it occurs in people who have a family history of other autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis.
This is the reason, why many researchers think that genetics may also contribute to the development of this condition.
Moreover, they are also off the view that certain environmental factors may also trigger alopecia in people who are genetically predisposed.
Signs and Symptoms of Alopecia Areata
One of the main signs and symptoms of Alopecia Areata is hair loss.
During this condition, hair usually falls out in the form of small patches, and these are often several centimeters or less.
Hair loss can also occur on parts of your face like eyebrows, eyelashes, or beards.
It can even affect other parts of your body.
Moreover, some people lose hair in few places, while others lose in a lot of spots.
At first, you might notice clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower, and often goes unnoticed.
One of your family member or friend might bring it to your attention about the spots or bald patches on your scalp.
Other health conditions can also cause hair hall, as hair fall is not only the sign and symptom of alopecia.
In rare cases, however, some people may also experience excess hair loss.
This is an indication of other types of alopecia areata like:
- Alopecia Totalis: which causes hair loss on your scalp
- Alopecia Universalis: hair loss on the whole body.
However, some doctors may avoid using either of the terms as they may be having symptoms of both.
For instance, some people may experience hair loss on arms, legs, scalp, and even on the chest.
According to research, hair loss associated with alopecia is unpredictable, however, spontaneous.
Moreover, your hair may grow back and fall out at any time.
An important thing to keep in mind is that about 30% of people with this condition can have it more extensive or it can become continuous.
Moreover, about 1/2 of the patients can recover from alopecia within a year but may experience more episodes.
Around 10% of the people may develop alopecia totalis or Alopecia Universalis.
Alopecia Areata in Men
Alopecia Areata can occur in both men and women.
However, hair loss is more significant in men than in women. This is because men are more likely to have a family history of hair loss condition.
Moreover, men may also experience hair loss on the face as well as scalp, chest, and back hair.
As compared to male-pattern baldness, which is a gradual thinning of overall hair, this condition causes patchy hair loss.
Alopecia Areata in Women
Women are more likely to develop this condition than males and there are no clear reasons why.
Moreover, the hair loss can be on the scalp, as well as eyebrows as well as eyelashes.
Unlike female-pattern hair loss, alopecia is confined to a small area, rather than gradual thinning of hair.
It can occur all at once as well. The patches can gradually expand and can thus lead to excess hair loss.
Alopecia Areata in Children
This condition can also develop in children and surprisingly, most people tend to experience their first hair loss before the age of 30.
While genes do play a part in the development of this, parents with this do not pass it on to their children.
In the same way, children with this condition do not necessarily have parents with this condition.
In addition to hair loss, children may also experience nail defects like pitting or lesions.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, children younger than 5 years of age do not experience emotional impact from this condition.
However, after this age, it can be traumatizing for young children.
In such a case, talk to a pediatrician or counselor to help your child.
Prognosis fo Alopecia
The prognosis of this condition can be different from one person to another.
Once you develop this condition you can suffer from it for the rest of your life as well as hair fall.
However, in some cases, people may experience hair fall for once.
The same can be said about recovery from this autoimmune condition.
Some people tend to hair full recovery, while others may not.
Poor outcomes are often associated with the following factors:
- extensive hair loss
- family history
- suffering from autoimmune conditions
- early age onset
- nail changes
Diagnosis of Alopecia
Your doctor can identify alopecia by simply looking at the extent of hair loss and by examining a few hair samples under a microscope.
The treatment also depends on the types of alopecia.
Moreover, they may also perform a biopsy to rule out other conditions that cause hair loss.
These include fungal infections like tinea capitis.
If your doctor suspects other autoimmune diseases, they may also order blood tests.
The specific blood tests depend on the particular disorder they might suspect.
However, they will likely perform a test for the presence of one or more abnormal antibodies.
Other blood tests include:
- iron levels
- thyroid hormones
- total and free testosterone
- follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormone
- C-reactive protein
- antinuclear antibody test
There is no treatment for alopecia however, you can try certain treatments that might be able to slow down the hair loss in the future or help you regrow your hair.
The condition is difficult to predict, meaning it may require trial and error until you find something that works to grow back hair.
However, in some cases, it may get worse.
The treatments can be medical options like topical agents, injections, oral treatments, light therapy, or natural treatments.
Let’s discuss these as follows:
Medical Treatments: Topical Agents
You can rub medications on your scalp to stimulate hair growth.
There are a number of OTC medications available in the market. And you can get some from your doctor’s prescription.
Minoxidil or Rogaine is an OTC medication.
You can apply it to your scalp, eyebrows, and beard, and is safe to use.
However, it can take a year to see visible results.
Anthralin or Dritho-Scalp is a drug that irritates the skin in order to spur hair regrowth.
Apply Acad Dermatol in the affected area.
Topical immunotherapy is a technique in which you will apply a chemical to your skin such as diphencyprone which sparks an allergic rash.
The rash, which resembles poison oak, may induce new hair growth within six months, however, you will have to continue the treatment to maintain the regrowth.
Corticosteroid creams like clobetasol or Impoyz, foams, lotions, and ointments can work by decreasing inflammation in the hair follicle.
One of the common medical treatments is the use of steroid injections, to help grow hair back on the bald spots.
Tiny needles inject steroids into the bare skin of your scalp.
However, you will have to get the treatment every 1 or 2 months to regrow hair.
It does not prevent new hair loss from occurring again.
Oral Treatments and Light Therapy
Cortisone can help treat extreme alopecia, however, you should consult your doctor before using it.
Oral immunosuppressants are another option as they work by blocking your immunity response.
However, you cannot use it for long periods of time due to side effects like high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, or a type of cancer, Lymphoma.
Light therapy, or photochemotherapy, is radiation therapy that uses a combination of oral medication psoralens and UV light.
Natural Treatment Options
Natural treatment options are aromatherapy, acupuncture, micro-needling, probiotics, low-level laser therapy.
Moreover, using vitamins like zinc and biotin, aloe vera gel, rubbing onion juice on your scalp, essential oils, scalp massage, and herbal supplements can help with hair loss.
Alternative therapies, however, need more clinical evidence to prove their effectiveness.
FDA, the Food and Drug Administrations does not require the manufactures of such supplements to prove that their product is safe.
Thus, you should always consult your doctor before using herbal or vitamin supplements.
Moreover, what might work for you will not essentially work for another person.
You might need to try more than one treatment to see visible results and hair on the scalp.
Hair regrowth might also be temporary, and they may regrow and fall out again.
People with alopecia areata should follow a balanced diet.
Food high in sugar, processed snacks, and even alcohol can increase inflammation and irritation in your body.
You can follow an anti-inflammatory diet if you suffer from an autoimmune disorder.
This diet helps to reduce autoimmune response and decrease the chances of another episode of hair loss.
You will have to eat foods that are known to reduce inflammation like blueberries, nuts, seeds, broccoli, beets, and lean meat.
Moreover, eating a balanced diet that contains whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat is beneficial for your overall health.
This condition is not preventable because of its unknown causes.
It can be a result of several factors both genetic or environmental. Its trigger may also be skin conditions like a fungal infection.
However, not everyone will develop this condition with the above factors.
This is the reason why it is still not possible to prevent it.
Alopecia Areata is a hair loss condition and can be emotionally challenging for many people, and it can make you isolated and depressed.
There are different reasons why your immune system might attacks your hair follicles, however, with certain medical or natural treatments you can treat this condition. However, keep in mind that you will have to try more than one treatment to see visible results.