What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is an emotionally disturbing, but not physically serious illness that presents with the sudden appearance of round bald spots on the scalp, eyebrows, beard, or any hairy area of the body. Patients are usually initially unaware the small bald patches, which are discovered by a barber or hairdresser.
Who gets alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata can affect anyone—of any age, race or gender—and may even run in families.
What causes alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles. The hair then falls out of the scalp from the root. Fortunately, the hair follicle is not permanently destroyed, and it is possible for the hair to grow back, especially with the right treatment. As with other autoimmune disease, alopecia areata may be triggered by stressful life events.
Is alopecia areata linked to other disease?
Alopecia areata may be linked with other autoimmune disorders, like thyroid disease or connective tissue diseases. On your initial evaluation at Eternal Dermatology, Dr. Rodney will evaluate you to be sure that you are not at risk of any of these associated autoimmune disorders.
Will my alopecia areata get worse?
About 5% of people with alopecia areata lose all the hair on their scalp. This is known as alopecia totalis. 1% of patients lose all of their body hair; known as alopecia universalis. These more severe forms of alopecia are more likely to occur when the hair loss starts in childhood.
How is alopecia areata treated?
There are a variety of treatment options for alopecia areata, which depend on the age of the patient, and the size and distribution of the areas of hair loss. Treatments include:
- Topical steroid (cortisone) ointments
- Steroid (cortisone) injections
- Oral steroids
- Topical sensitizers (like DPCP or squaric acid)
- Light therapy
- Stress reduction
- Psychological counselling (to reduce stress and to deal with the emotional burden of hair loss)
- Camouflage techniques
It is important that you see a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in hair and scalp disorders, as many of these treatments can have side effects, especially if not performed correctly.
How will the hair regrow?
Oftentimes, when the hair in the bald patches of alopecia areata returns, it may initially grow out as very fine, white hair which then becomes thicker and darker over time.
For additional information and support, please visit The National Alopecia Areata Foundation website at www.naaf.org.