What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia is a general term for hair loss. Alopecia areata is a specific, common cause of hair loss that can occur at any age. It usually causes small, coin-sized, round patches of baldness on the scalp, although hair elsewhere such as the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, body and limbs can be affected. Occasionally it can involve the whole scalp (alopecia totalis) or even the entire 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.
What causes alopecia areata?
Hair is lost because it is rejected by the affected person’s immune system which does not recognise the hair roots (follicles) as “self”, but regards them as “foreign” (autoimmunity). Why this happens is not fully understood, nor is it known why only localised areas are affected and why the hair regrows again.
Someone with alopecia areata is more likely than a person without it to develop other autoimmune conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes and vitiligo (white patches on the skin), although the risk of getting these disorders is still low. Your doctor may suggest a blood test looking for antibodies that may predict whether you are likely to develop thyroid problems or pernicious anaemia.
Alopecia areata is not catching nor is it related to diet or vitamin deficiencies. Stress, particularly events such as bereavement, separation and accidents, occasionally appears to be a trigger for alopecia areata.
Hair loss facts
What Are Causes of Hair Loss?
- Hair loss without scarring of the scalp is a very common condition and affects most people at some time in their lives.
- Medical professionals should distinguish hair loss from breakage of the hair shaft from hair loss due to decreased hair growth.
- Common balding (androgenetic alopecia) occurs in men and women and is due to the effect of testosterone metabolites in genetically susceptible hair follicles.
- Thyroid disease, anemia, protein deficiency, secondary syphilis, chemotherapy, and low vitamin levels may cause hair loss.
- Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss produced by the autoimmune destruction of hair follicles in localized areas of skin.
Risk factors for hair loss?
Because there are many types of hair loss, finding the cause can be challenging. This review will cover the most common causes of hair loss occurring on normal unscarred scalp skin. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia.
Most hair loss is not associated with systemic or internal disease, nor is poor diet a frequent factor. Hair may simply thin as a result of predetermined genetic factors and the overall aging process. Many men and women may notice mild physiologic thinning of hair starting in their 30s and 40s.
Life vicissitudes, including illness, emotional trauma, protein deprivation (during strict dieting), and hormonal changes like those in pregnancy, puberty, and menopause may cause hair loss.
Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. You might be able to reverse hair loss, or at least slow it. With some conditions, such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), hair may regrow without treatment within a year. Treatments for hair loss include medications and surgery.
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