Alopecia Areata: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where hair will fall out in patches of the head, and on other parts of the body in some cases. Alopecia areata differs from normal hair fall as the bold patches are noticeably on different parts of the head as opposed to one big single patch.
Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system will attack hair follicles, mistakenly for harmful bacteria or viruses, resulting in quick and sudden hair loss. The extent and severity of alopecia areata will differ from one person to the other.
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For some people. It may happen, but hair can grow back before the condition may occur again. For others, it may result in entire hair loss and the inability to grow back. With that being said, let’s go through the symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Types of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia has several different types that can distinguish symptoms as well as potential treatments. These include:
1. Alopecia Areata (Patchy)
This type of alopecia is the most common, and will result in coin size patches all losing hair and can result in small separate patches on the head. The condition can occur on other parts of your body as well, including your chest, back, and legs.
2. Alopecia Totalis
This type of alopecia occurs when you experience entire hair loss on your scalp. Depending on its condition, hair loss may be permanent.
3. Alopecia Universalis
Having the same symptoms of alopecia areata where you lose patches on the scalp, alopecia Universalis will also lead to hair loss on the face, including eyebrows, lashes, and facial hair. It can also lead to hair loss on body parts including, chest, back, arms, legs, and pubic region.
4. Diffuse Alopecia Areata
This condition does not just result in hair loss in patches, but can also result in thinning in all parts of the hair before resulting in hair loss.
5. Ophiasis Alopecia
This is when the hair loss occurs on the side of the scalp or near the neck and ears. This can appear in patches or as a band that surrounds the head.
Symptoms of Alopecia Areata
The main symptom and most noticeable one on all types of conditions is the obvious hair loss. Regular hair loss can result in thinning or in a big patch.
Alopecia areata is obvious when several bold patches develop and are separated a couple of centimetres from each other with normal growing hair. Alopecia areata can also become apparent when you notice that your lashes and eyebrows are also experiencing hair fall. Seeing patches of hair loss all over the body may also be indicators of the conditioning occurring in your health.
Apart from hair loss, alopecia areata does not show any other physical symptoms that are noticeable. Only when you notice bald patches forming, clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower, will you be able to suspect the condition.
Doctors can conduct multiple tests to diagnose the condition. Doctors will take blood tests or a scalp biopsy where they take a bit of skin to put under the microscope to test whether the autoimmune disorder the result.
You may also be referred to a dermatologist to take a better look and observation into your scalp and hair follicles.
Causes of Alopecia Areata
Like all other autoimmune disorders, the immune system attacks perfectly healthy cells instead of harmful external properties. In this situation, your immune system will attack your hair follicles. And like all other autoimmune disorders, alopecia areata is unfortunately incurable.
In some cases, alopecia areata can also prevent future hair growth and result in permanent baldness. This is because when the autoimmune system is attacking your hair follicles, the follicles will change the structure and become smaller, resulting in the inability for hair growth.
Researchers to this day are still unsure of the leading cause for the condition. However, certain risk factors are associated with it. A family history of autoimmune disease can increase your chances of it. This includes type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Although alopecia areata is incurable at this time, there are treatments you can do and certain changes in your lifestyle you can make to slow down future hair loss as well as managing your hair condition top minimize the effects of the disorder. Certain treatments can be done at home with prescription medicine, or you can undertake medical procedures that can help.
1. Topical Agents
Your doctor may prescribe you with topical medicinal agents that can help stimulate hair growth. Minoxidil, anthralin, and other topical agents are all known to promote hair growth spurts.
2. Steroid Injection
A common type of treatment for people with hair loss, injections can help boost hair growth. Tiny needles that can dispose of steroids into the empty patches of the scalp may help with mild to severe cases of alopecia areata. This treatment needs to be done over time and may be more effective for some over others.
3. Oral Medication
Doctors may also provide you with oral medication to help combat the damage caused by an autoimmune disorder.
4. Light Therapy
A popular type of treatment for people suffering from hair loss, light therapy is when the radiation from UV light exposure can stimulate hair follicles to grow hair. This is done simultaneously with oral medication.
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