What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is a systemic autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, either in random spots or all over the body. It occurs when the body attacks its own hair follicles, either suppressing or altogether stopping hair growth. It usually begins in early childhood and is found equally in males and females.
The exact cause of alopecia areata is unknown. Research has shown that in some cases, it may be genetic. The condition is known to be exacerbated by emotional or physical stress.
Patchy Alopecia Areata
This type of alopecia is characterized by one or more coin-sized bald patches developing on the scalp. These spots may lose hair and then grow it back, or may remain permanently bald.
This type of alopecia results in hair loss all over the scalp.
This type of alopecia causes hair loss on the entire scalp and body, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, armpits and leg hair.
Diffuse Alopecia Areata
This kind of alopecia results in sudden and unexpected thinning of the hair on the scalp.
This type of alopecia causes a unique pattern of hair loss, with hair thinning on the sides and back of the scalp.
- Small bald patches
- Sudden hair thinning
- Significant hair loss in one or more areas of the body
- Tingling or irritation of the scalp
Alopecia areata can usually be diagnosed by a thorough physical examination and assessing the patient’s medical history. The doctor may need to know if anyone in the patient’s family suffers from hair loss. Confirmation of the condition can be made through a trichoscopy, a diagnostic tool that examines the scalp and identifies damaged hair follicles.
There is no cure for alopecia areata. Some minor cases may resolve on their own. Treating the condition focuses more on managing the severity of the hair loss. Some steroids can decrease the amount of hair loss. Managing stress levels can also decrease the severity of hair loss.