Alopecia - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By: Juliet Cohen


Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss from areas of the body, usually from the scalp . Because it causes bald spots on the head, especially in the first stages, it is sometimes called spot baldness. Alopecia areata affects both males and females. This type of hair loss is different than male pattern baldness, an inherited condition. Alopecia areata is one type of hair loss. The exact number of people affected by alopecia areata is not known. Estimates vary between 1 in 1000 to 2 in 100 people being affected at some point in their life. Alopecia areata can occur at any age but most cases first develop in teenagers and children. In about 6 in 10 cases the first patch of hair loss develops before the age of 20 years. Alopecia areata is an unpredictable disease. In some people, hair grows back but falls out again later. In others, hair grows back and remains. Each case is unique. Even if someone loses all of his or her hair, there is a chance that it will grow back.

Alopecia areata is a disease that affects the hair follicles, which are part of the skin from which hairs grow. In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. The extent of the hair loss varies; in some cases, it is only in a few spots. In others, the hair loss can be greater. Occasionally it can involve the whole scalp (alopecia totalis) or even all the body and scalp (alopecia universalis). It is not possible to predict how much hair will be lost. Regrowth of hair in typical alopecia areata is usual over a period of months or, sometimes, years, but cannot be guaranteed. The hair sometimes regrows white at least in the first instance. Further hair loss is not uncommon. In alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis the likelihood of total regrowth is less.

Causes of Alopecia

The specific cause of alopecia areata is unknown. A family history of alopecia is present in about a fifth of all cases. Alopecia areata is occasionally associated with autoimmune diseases . --Normally the immune system protects the body against infection and disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. In alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles. For people whose genes put them at risk for the disease, some type of trigger starts the attack on the hair follicles. The triggers may be a virus or something in the person's environment.

Symptoms of Alopecia

The primary symptom of alopecia areata is roundish patches of hair loss on the head, with smooth, hairless scalp in the affected areas. Alopecia totalis involves the complete loss of all scalp hair, and alopecia universalis is characterized by the complete loss of all scalp and body hair.

Treatment of Alopecia

1. Certain medications to promote hair growth (such as minoxidil and finasteride).

2. Treating any underlying condition or disease.

3. Corticosteroid injections (when treating alopecia areata).

4. Scalp reduction.

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Juliet Cohen writes health articles for health care clinic. She also writes articles for women health.

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