Alopecia areata is a hair loss condition also known as auto-immune disease that causes the quick start of round patches of baldness or spot baldness. It causes sudden flat or circular patches of hair loss which varies in sizes from an inch to the whole scalp or sometimes even the whole body. During the early stages, a single patch is observed and consequently more patches develop in other areas which are usually round or oval.
The patch looks so smooth that as though hair follicles had been entirely damaged. Hairs may be seen at the margin of this patch. These are broken, short hair that diminish at the base. Pulling slightly on these hairs causes them to fall out. Some people may experience a slight burning or tingling in the area of hair loss. Mainly young people in their early age start losing hair. Very few people may have this problem genetically. It affects both genders. Alopecia areata is infrequently related with any other external or internal medical problems. The state of hair may improve or can get worse on its own. Most often these bald areas regrow their hair spontaneously. Causes of Alopecia Areata The growth of alopecia areata is erratic. A number of people loose hair in only a small patch. Some may have more extensive involvement. A total loss of scalp hair is known as “Alopecia totalis”. The loss of body hair is known as “Alopecia universalis”.
These two conditions are rare. Alopecia areata is occasionally associated with other autoimmune conditions such as allergic disorders, thyroid disease, vitiligo, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. The diagnosis or treatment of these diseases is not likely to affect the course of alopecia areata. Sometimes, alopecia areata occurs within family members, suggesting a role of genes. There is a higher rate of a family history of alopecia areata in people who are affected. Genetic factors seem to play an important role in this. Alopecia areata appears to also have an autoimmune factor causing the patient to develop antibodies to different hair follicle structures. Certain chemicals that are a part of the immune system called cytokines may play a role in alopecia areata by inhibiting hair follicle growth. Some studies show that emotional stress may also cause alopecia areata. From the prudent area, the hair follicles enter into the telogen or late catagen stage of hair growth due to which hair loss occurs. In the catagen stage the hair follicle discontinue growing and in the telogen stage it falls out. Hair pass through these stages casually and the growing hair on the rest of the head outnumber the hair that fall out. In alopecia areata, something causes all the hairs in a certain area to enter the telogen or catagen stage at the same time. Recently some studies have suggested that alopecia areata can be caused by an oddity in the immune system. This particular abnormality leads to autoimmunity, a mistaken immune system that tends to attack its own body. As an effect, the immune system attacks specific tissues of the body. For unidentified reasons, the body’s own immune system disturbs the hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation.
What is the treatment for alopecia areata?
Spontaneous remissions and reoccurrences are common in Alopecia Areata. However, there are very less chances of hair re-growth when the time period of hair loss and the area is larger as in alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. Mild cases of Alopecia Areata can be treated with intralesional steroid injections. Treatment can also include topical corticosteroids, minoxidil or contact immunotherapy. For more severe cases, oral steroids can also be considered. On rare occasions, if Alopecia Areata is stable and unresponsive to medical treatment, hair transplantation may be considered. Therefore, a cosmetic concealment or an exact treatment of alopecia areata is certainly very part of patient management, otherwise the damaging emotional effect of significant hair loss for both women and men can be considerable.