What is it?
Alopecia Areata is a disease that causes hair loss. It usually affects the scalp, but can also affect other areas of the body that have hair. The hair loss is quite rapid, and occurs in patches.
Who can get it?
Anyone at any age can get alopecia areata. Most often, young adults and children are affected. Men and women are both equally affected.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
The causes and reasons for alopecia areata are unknown. Current research suggests it is caused by a problem with the immune system. In people with alopecia areata, for unidentified reasons, the body's immune system disrupts normal hair formation when it attacks the hair follicles. Heredity seems to play a role as alopecia areata often runs in families. It is not contagious.
There are many in the medical community that believes stress may cause or contribute to alopecia areata. There is no proof of this currently, and several studies are looking at this.
Alopecia Areata Symptoms
The primary symptom of alopecia areata is round spots of hair loss on the scalp. The symptoms can vary dramatically. Some people get bald patches (patchy alopecia areata), while others may get complete baldness of the scalp (alopecia totalis). Less common is to lose all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis). People affected with alopecia areata are usually in otherwise good health.
How is Alopecia Areata diagnosed?
It is important to have a dermatologist diagnose this disease. There are other diseases that can cause hair loss that are treatable.
A dermatologist can usually diagnose alopecia areata through a visual examination. They look for “exclamation point hair” in the areas of the hair loss. Exclamation point hairs are short broken off hairs that stick straight up, and are usually close to the scalp. Sometimes a biopsy is done, and the sample is examined under a microscope.
This condition will generally clear up on its own within several months to several years. About half of all people affected will grow their hair back within a year without getting any treatment. However, the condition can reoccur at any time. Reoccurrence is common.
The more widespread the hair loss, or the longer it lasts, the less likely that the hair will grow back.
A doctor can prescribe several drugs, including creams and steroid injections. Many people also respond well to drugs that promote hair growth.
No one treatment works for everyone, and for some people, no treatments are effective. They just have to let the disease run its course. It is best to discuss the options with your doctor.
The effects or this disease are mainly psychological. Hair loss often leads to a reduced self-image. The scalp is more susceptible to sun damage due to the loss of hair. Also, due to the loss of nasal hair, hay fever and similar allergic conditions can worsen.
Due to social discomfort, many women with this disease will wear wigs.
This article was written by Scott Mogul, editor for http://www.healthy-skin-guide.com For additional information skin care and skin treatment, please visit Healthy Skin Guide