What is Alopecia Areata? How does it Affect Your Hair?


Staff member
Alopecia is a medical term for hair loss. Alopecia Areata refers to a medical condition in which hair starts to fall in patches. It is an autoimmune disease of the skin that causes hair loss on any hair-bearing part of the body. People from any gender, age, and ethnic group can suffer from alopecia Areata.

How does it affect hair?
Alopecia Areata is a disorder of the immune system. The body’s immune system attacked the hair follicles. Shrinking them drastically. It rapidly slows down their growth and reproduction cycle. Eventually causing them to fall.

Hair starts to fall in small patches. The loss can be gradual and unnoticeable or sudden. The amount of hair loss is different from person to person. Some lose it like clump, others may have a few. Hair can grow back and fall again. Or it can come back forever.

Types of Alopecia Areata:
There are different types of Alopecia Areata but. It is most common in its main type other are rare. Each type is known for the degree of hair loss or symptoms it may have.

• Alopecia Areata(Patchy):
is the main type. Coin-sized hairless patches appear on the scalp or any hair-bearing part of the body.
• Alopecia Totalis:
complete loss of scalp hair.
• Alopecia Universalis:
a complete loss of hair spreading all over the scalp, face and, body.
• Diffuse Alopecia Areata:
like female-pattern-baldness. The hair starts thinning all over the scalp rather than falling in patched
• Ophiasis Alopecia Areata:
the loss is like a band around the lower-back part of the scalp.

The basic and only visible symptom is hair loss. It is almost unpredictable. However, some predictable symptoms that help to recognize the underlying problems

• Hair loss more than usual big strands coming out in hand or hairbrush. Similar hair fall on other areas of body, eyebrows, eyelashes, chest, beard, underarms, pubic area is prominent
• Small bald spots on scalp or body parts. They may gradually spread and merge creating big patches or complete baldness.
• Sudden loss of hair within a short time.
• Hair growing back on a patch, and fall again.
• Hair loss occurring on only one side of the scalp
• Brittle hair
• Hair starts to thin near the roots
• New grown hair is white or blond, as it affects the hair pigments
• Brittle nails, toenails,
• Pitting on nails

The small bald patches are plain usually do not have any redness, itching. A tingling or itchiness may felt before hair fall.

These symptoms are not necessarily for alopecia areata. They can be an indication of some other underlying disease so immediately consult a doctor.

No scientific study proves what causes alopecia areata or immune disorders. Some studies have set some parameters. These factors can be causes of alopecia areata:

• Family history of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
• Thyroid disorders
• Seasonal allergies
• Nutritive deficiencies
• Skin diseases
• Mental health, psychological problems, stress, depression
• Hormonal disorders

Is it hereditary?
A common question related to Alopecia Areata is, is it a genetic disease?

It is not predictable. However, there are chances of inheriting it in your genes. Multiple factors hereditary and environmental can trigger the disease. Anyone can suffer from it having or not having it in genes.

If you find excessive hair thinning, hair loss, or any of the above said symptoms. Consult a dermatologist.

Questioned may be asked: They may ask you about family history, symptoms. Your overall health issues, any disease related to hair loss,
Scalp Examination: They will examine your scalp or affected area, a pull test, hair follicle examination is possible. pull test: helps to diagnose diffuse hair loss.
Pluck test: plucked root is examined to determine the phase of the growth cycle
Blood Test: In some cases, a blood test is possible to check immune, hormonal, or thyroid disorders.
Biopsy: In case of any fungal infection, a biopsy is not out of question. Hair follicles are taken from the affected area to determine the cause.
Trichoscopy: the scalp is examined with the help of a micro dermoscopy or video dermoscopy. To detect the ratio of the destroyed hair follicle and healthy hair follicles.

Treatment of Alopecia Areata:
Treatment of alopecia areata is as challenging as its diagnose. No definite cure has been discovered yet. Alopecia Areata is manageable, not curable.

Many treatments are recommended depending upon the type, age, the extent of hair fall. These treatments are used to disrupt and distract the misguided attack and to stimulate hair follicles to grow again.

Oral medication:
Ther are some anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed to take orally in form of pills, Cortisone, cyclosporine,
Methotrexate is used to manage the immune system. This medicinal treatment has side effect so can not be taken for long periods.

Injection in scalps is used to stimulate hair follicles in mild Alopecia Areata.

Chemical and ointments are applied to the scalp to produce a reaction that will help stimulate hair follicles to re-grow.

Minoxidil (Rogaine) is applied to any hair-bearing area, scalp, eyebrow, beard to re-grow hair. But the result is visible after 10 to 12 months of use. Once you stop using it the hair loss starts again .so this is not a permanent solution.

Topical immune therapy:
Is a technique to revive lost hair. A chemical like diphencyprone is applied to scalps. It creates an allergic reaction. It stimulates the hair to re-grow, but only if works. Several applications are needed to start a re-growth.

Sulfasalazine, Tacrolimus, Cyclosporine A, Topical immunomodulators, Topical corticosteroids are some common medicines used to treat Alopecia Areata.

The treatment is helpful especially for people suffering from milder forms of Alopecia Areata.

Living with Alopecia Areata:
If you are facing a non-curable condition with severe loss. You can opt to wear external hair aids. like
• Hair wigs,
• Hair extensions
• hairpieces
• eyelash extensions
• eyebrow stencils

They are available for males and females. With a variety of hairstyle options. You can choose according to your face, age, or gender. There are vacume wigs available that stick to the skin, you can even swim wearing these wigs.

For eyebrow hair loss micro balding and tattoos are options to hide the patches.

Take Away:
Alopecia Areata is emotionally challenging. It not only affects physical appearance, but it also has psychological effects people suffering from the condition feel depressed. Remember, you are not alone millions are facing the same problem. You always have a choice fight back or sit back. Be brave and embrace the condition with your chin up.