Today we are taking a look at the condition alopecia areata, a hair loss condition found in both men and women. Alopecia areata is an auto-immune disorder, a disorder where the immune system attacks healthy cells of the body. Alopecia areata is characterized by patterns of baldness, generally on the scalp. Asymmetric hair loss is more common from those afflicted with alopecia areata, and ranges from small patches missing to nearly half the scalp.
Alopecia areata may resemble several other hair conditions, but the major distinction is localized hair loss. Alopecia areata can occur as a generalized thinning of hair, known as diffuse alopecia areata, as hair loss on the body, alopecia totalis, or as universal hair loss alopecia universalis. These forms are less common, since the autoimmune condition is generally localized to regions of immune response. Evidence of this immune response (making it different from other hair-loss conditions) is seen from biopsies of hair follicles where immune cells not normally present have been found.
While the exact cause of alopecia areata is not known, there are several theories. Genetic inheritance seems to be a probable factor, since individuals with a family history of alopecia areata are more likely to develop the condition. The condition seems to have an autoimmune factor that produces antibodies to different hair structures. Emotional stress has been shown to trigger or exacerbate the symptoms.
Treatment of alopecia areata is patient dependent. Most patients will regrow hair within a year without treatment. However, for patients experiencing prolonged hair loss, regrowth is either slow or non-existent without treatment. In this case, treatments can range from steroid injections, specialized shampoos or creams, minoxidil, irritants, and topical immunotherapy. However, since this is a chronic disorder, there is no single treatment, and even effective treatments are not cures.
Patterns of baldness are not uncommon, but if you notice unusual patches of baldness, consult your physician. While there is no discernable cure for alopecia areata, treatment can be given to lessen the symptoms.