Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 18 March 2021
Table of contents
What Is Alopecia?
Alopecia areata is an inflammatory condition in which the hair falls out in clumps the size and form of a coin. The degree of hair loss ranges from person to person. Some people just lose it in a few areas. Others suffer significant losses. Hair grows back in some situations but then falls out again. In some, hair regrows permanently.
There are several forms of this disease. Alopecia areata is the most prevalent form, although there are other, less common types:
- Alopecia areata total – hair loss all over the head.
- Alopecia areata Universalis – hair loss all over the entire body.
- Diffuse alopecia areata – sudden thinning of hair, rather than complete hair loss in patches
- Ophiasis alopecia areata – a band-like pattern of hair loss on sides and back of the head
Hair loss is the most frequent and sometimes the only sign of alopecia. You may have noted the following:
- Bald spots on the scalp or anywhere on your body
- Patches can become larger and combine to create a bald spot.
- Hair regrows in one place then falls out in another. You lose a lot of hair in a brief period of time.
- In the winter, there is more hair loss.
- Toenails and fingernails become red, brittle, and pitted.
There is no swelling or redness on the bald patches of skin. However, just before the hair falls out, you may notice a tingling, scratching, or burning feeling on your scalp.
Causes and Risk Factors
The immune system destroys the organs when you have an autoimmune disorder. The hair follicles are the ones that are attacked in alopecia areata.
Doctors are uncertain as to why this occurs. However, they believe that those who get it have a gene that makes it more likely. The hair loss is then triggered by something.
If you have any of the following, you’re more likely to develop alopecia areata:
- Family history of the condition
- Down syndrome
- Pernicious anemia
- Seasonal allergies
- Thyroid disease
If you believe you have alopecia areata, you should seek treatment by a dermatologist. They will:
- Discuss the symptoms with you.
- Examine the places where you’ve lost hair in detail.
- Pull the hairs at the bald patch’s edges softly to see whether they fall out naturally.
- Look for abnormally formed hairs and follicles in human hairs and follicles.
- Take a look at your nails.
A biopsy can sometimes be needed. This is a procedure in which a tiny patch of skin from the scalp is cut and examined under a microscope.
Hair loss may be induced by a number of causes. As a consequence, your doctor might inspect your skin for fungus or recommend blood tests to check for thyroid, hormone, or immune system issues.
Alopecia areata is incurable. However, it is treatable, and hair will regrow. There are a few items you can try if you have it:
Corticosteroids. They are anti-inflammatory medicines used to combat autoimmune disorders. They may be injected into the scalp or other sections of the body. They may also be taken as a tablet or applied as an ointment, cream, or foam to the face. The drawback is that it can take quite some time to work.
Topical immunotherapy. When there is a lot of hair loss if it occurs more than once, something is used. To induce an allergic reaction, chemicals are applied to the scalp. If it succeeds, this reaction is what causes the hair to regrow. It often induces an itchy rash and must be performed many times in order to maintain new hair growth.
Minoxidil (Rogaine). This scalp medication is now being used to manage pattern baldness. Some users are unhappy with the results because it takes around 12 weeks to see growth. Learn more regarding the forms of alopecia that react best to minoxidil.
Medications that are sometimes prescribed for other inflammatory diseases can also be used to manage alopecia areata. These treatments have different degrees of effectiveness in terms of hair regrowth.
If you have alopecia areata, you should pursue a range of treatments in addition to medications.
Wear wigs, hats, or scarves. They will conceal your hair loss and protect your head from the sun.
Reduce your stress levels. Alopecia areata tends to be caused by personal problems, but this has not been scientifically established.
Alopecia areata isn’t necessarily a dangerous medical disorder, although it can leave you feeling anxious and depressed. There are support groups available to assist you with dealing with the clinical consequences of the illness.
Even if you lose all of your hair, it will regrow. If it doesn’t, there are a variety of options for concealing hair loss and protecting your skin.
Always see a specialist if you experience unexpected hair loss. Aside from alopecia areata, there may be other factors.
Referenced on 2.3.2021:
- National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Alopecia Areata.”
- American Academy of Dermatology Association: “Hair Loss Types: Alopecia Areata.”
- UpToDate: “Patient education: Alopecia areata (Beyond the Basics).”
- Mayo Clinic: “Hair loss.”