Alopecia areata (AA) causes hair loss in small, round patches that may go away on their own, or may last for many years. Nearly 2% of the US population will develop AA in their lifetime. Some individuals with AA may lose all scalp hair (alopecia totalis) or all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis). The immune system, for unknown reasons, attacks the hair root and causes hair loss.
Alopecia areata (AA) is probably the third most common form of hair loss, after androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium. The lifetime risk for AA is nearly two in every 100 people. It is not contagious; typically the hair grows back within 12 months or less.
Alopecia areata is a skin disorder that causes hair loss, usually in patches, most often on the scalp. Sometimes, this means a few bare patches on the scalp whereas in other cases, hair loss is more extensive.
Alopecia Totalis - more severe, causing total baldness
Alopecia Universalis - total loss of body hair
AA usually begins with one or more small, round, coin-size, bare patches. It is most common on the scalp, but can involve any hair-bearing sites eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, underarm hair and pubic hair (hair around the genitals).
Hair may fall out and regrow with the possibility of full hair regrowth always present. AA usually has no associated symptoms, but there may be minor discomfort, itching, or tenderness prior to developing a new patch.
Some individuals with (AA) also have abnormalities in the surface of their fingernails, such as tiny pits or dents, grooves, superficial splitting, or an irregular area of redness.
Although your dermatologist may know by examining your scalp, occasionally, a scalp biopsy is helpful in confirming the diagnosis. The diagnosis is typically based on examination of the areas of your hair loss and your symptoms. To look for further evidence, your doctor may pull gently on the hairs near the edge of the bald area to conclude whether these hairs come out effortlessly or to inspect them for any structural abnormalities.
There are a range of treatments for AA, but none are effective for everyone and some people with AA don't respond to any treatment. Because some of the available treatments have a high risk of side effects, they are often not used for children.
Although there is no permanent cure for alopecia areata, there are ways that may short-circuit the body's autoimmune reaction in the scalp and encourage hair regrowth. Options include:
•Cortisone Injections – Cortisone cream can be applied on the bald patches or cortisone injections are introduced at the patch site to suppress the immune reaction.
•Immunotherapy – Chemicals such as diphencyprone or DCP or squaric acid dibutyl ester (SADBE) can create an allergic reaction, which may counterbalance the turned-on immune cells.
•Rogaine – Increases hair growth by accelerating the speed of the natural hair cycle and increasing the diameter of hairs starting to grow.
•Anthralin – When applied to the scalp causes an irritation that may stimulate early hair regrowth.
•Psoralen/Ultraviolet A Phototherapy – Utilized for controlled exposure of the affected skin.
•Corticosteroids (prednisone) by mouth, or rarely, intravenously for adult patients with extensive hair loss.
Other Alternatives: Wigs, caps, hats, or scarves are essential options. Wearing a head covering does not interfere with hair regrowth.
Risk Factors for Alopecia Areata (AA) include individuals with asthma, hay fever, thyroid disease. Individuals with vitiligo (a condition in which patches of skin lose their color), pernicious anemia and Down syndrome are also at higher risk.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.