Alopecia Areata : Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  Alopecia areata is a condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches, which can be unnoticeable. These patches may connect, however, and then become noticeable. The condition develops when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Sudden hair loss may occur on the scalp and in some cases the eyebrows, eyelashes, and face, as well as other parts of the body. It can also develop slowly and recur after years between instances.

The condition can result in total hair loss, called alopecia Universalis, and it can prevent hair from growing back. When hair does grow back, it’s possible for the hair to fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies from person to person.

There’s currently no cure for alopecia areata. However, there are treatments that may help hair grow back more quickly and that can prevent future hair loss, as well as unique ways to cover up hair loss. Resources are also available to help people cope with stress related to hair loss.

What causes alopecia areata?

Current evidence suggests that alopecia areata is caused by an abnormality in the immune system that damages hair follicles. This particular abnormality leads to autoimmunity, a misguided immune system that tends to attack its own body. As a result, the immune system attacks particular tissues of the body. In alopecia areata, for unknown reasons, the body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation. Biopsies of affected skin show immune lymphocytes penetrating into the hair bulb of the hair follicles.

Alopecia areata is occasionally associated with other autoimmune conditions such as.

thyroid disease,



rheumatoid arthritis, and

ulcerative colitis.

The diagnosis or treatment of these diseases is unlikely to affect the course of alopecia areata.

Sometimes, alopecia areata occurs within family members, suggesting the role of genes.

What Symptoms of Alopecia?

     The main and often the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. You may notice:

Small bald patches on your scalp or other parts of your body

Patches may get larger and grow together into a bald spot

Hair grows back in one spot and falls out in another

You lose a lot of hair over a short time

More hair loss in cold weather

Fingernails and toenails become red, brittle, and pitted

The bald patches of skin are smooth, with no rash or redness. But you may feel a tingling, itching, or burning sensation on your skin right before the hair falls out.

Alopecia Treatment :

Some patches of hair loss will spontaneously regrow hair without treatment.

Most patients and families, however, are interested in trying treatments to speed up hair regrowth. The selection of treatment depends on the age of the patient, how widespread the hair loss is, how long the hair loss has been present, and other medical problems.

Pediatric dermatologists at Nationwide Children’s may recommend the following treatment options: topical steroids, injections of steroids, topical minoxidil (Rogaine), topical irritants and immunotherapy, or pills that turn down the immune system. 

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