What is alopecia areata?

What is alopecia areata?

There is currently no cure for alopecia areata. However, there are treatments that can help hair to grow faster and that can prevent hair loss in the future. There are also resources available to help people deal with the disease.

 

What are the symptoms of alopecia areata?

The main symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. Hair usually falls on small round spots on the scalp. These spots are usually several centimeters or less. Hair loss can also occur in other parts of the body. You can first notice hair clusters on your pillow or in the shower. However, other types of diseases can also cause hair to fall into a similar pattern. Hair loss alone should not be used to diagnose alopecia areata.

In rare cases, some people may have more extensive hair loss. This is usually an indication of another type of alopecia, such as:alopecia totalis, which is the loss of all hair on the scalp  alopecia universalis, which is the loss of all hair throughout the body . Hair loss associated with alopecia areata is unpredictable and random. The hair can grow back at any time and then fall again. The extent of hair loss and new growth varies greatly from person to person.

What causes alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease develops when the immune system confuses healthy cells with foreign substances. Usually, the immune system defends your body against foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. If you have alopecia areata, however, your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. Hair follicles are the structures from which the hair grows. The follicles get smaller and stop producing hair, leading to hair loss.

Researchers do not know what triggers the immune system to attack the hair follicles, so the exact cause of this condition is not known. However, it occurs more often in people with a family history of other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. This is why some scientists suspect that genetics may contribute to the development of alopecia areata. They also believe that certain factors in the environment are needed to trigger alopecia areata in people genetically predisposed to the disease.

How is Alopecia Areata diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your symptoms to determine if you have alopecia areata. They can diagnose alopecia areata simply by observing the extent of hair loss and by examining some hair samples under a microscope.
Your doctor may also perform a scalp biopsy to rule out other conditions that cause hair loss, including yeast infections, such as tinea capitis. During a biopsy of the scalp, the doctor will remove a small piece of skin from the scalp for analysis.

Blood tests may be done if other autoimmune conditions are suspected. The specific blood test performed depends on the specific disorder your doctor suspects. However, your doctor will probably test for the presence of one or more abnormal antibodies. If these autoantibodies are found in the blood, this usually means that you have an autoimmune disorder.

Other blood tests that may help rule out other conditions include the following:
C-reactive protein and sedimentation rate of erythrocyte iron levels, antibody test, antinuclear, thyroid hormones, free testosterone and total follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormone

How is alopecia areata treated?
There is no known cure for alopecia areata, but the condition can be treated. The treatment may be able to prevent future hair loss or help the hair to grow faster.

Medical treatment
You can rub certain medicines like minoxidil (Rogaine) on the scalp to help stimulate hair growth. Other common therapies include steroid injections or corticosteroid creams and ointments. In some cases, photochemotherapy can be used to promote hair growth. Photochemotherapy is a type of radiation treatment that uses a combination of oral medication and ultraviolet light.

Alternative Therapies
Some people with alopecia areata choose alternative therapies to treat their condition. These may include: Aromatherapy, Acupuncture, Herbal Supplements, Vitamins
Most alternative therapies have not been tested in clinical trials, so their efficacy in the treatment of hair loss is not known.
The effectiveness of each treatment will vary from person to person. Some people do not even need treatment, as hair grows on its own. In other cases, however, people never see improvements, despite trying all treatment options. It may be necessary to try more than one treatment to see the difference. Keep in mind that hair growth may only be temporary. It is possible that the hair grows again and then falls again.

How to Deal with Alopecia Areata
If hair loss is uncomfortable, you can try to cover bald head with a stylish wig, hat or scarf. You can also apply a powder or cream color hair on the scalp to make hair loss less obvious. Applying eyebrow pencils can help mask the lost eyebrows.

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