Hair loss is one of the most common conditions affecting people all over the world. While it is a natural part of aging, there can also be medical reason behind it. One of the most common reasons is alopecia areata. This is not as simple as you may think, because even this condition can be a sign of a much deeper problem. This article will give you more insight into the causes, symptoms and treatments for alopecia areata. If you’re interested, keep reading.
Alopecia areata is actually diagnosed by the initial bald spots it causes on the head. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as ‘spot baldness’. This can be easily confused with the standard hair loss that comes with age. However, the condition can develop into two different types if left untreated, including:
- Alopecia Universalis: this type affects hair on the entire body
- Alopecia Totalis: this type affects hair on the scalp
The condition is mainly associated with various thyroid disorders, where the hormonal balance in the body in charge of maintaining the health of the hair follicles is thrown off balance. It is better to treat the condition while it is still mild, as it may get worse overtime. There are also times when situational or psychological factors cause some small flare-ups of hair loss and alopecia. In these cases, the condition generally fixes itself and the hair grows back.
Alopecia Areata: What is this Condition?
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss which the hair falls out in round patches. The condition is sometimes called autoimmune alopecia, because it is one of several kinds of autoimmune diseases. A regular immune systems attacks any external interference in your body’s homeostasis (balanced state of being) but autoimmune illnesses cause the immune system to attack its own surroundings, even those that are healthy.
The sudden hair loss can occur on the scalp or other parts of the body, and while it seldom results in total hair loss, the bald patches may not grow back. The degree of hair regrowth and loss varies from one person to another.
Treatments for alopecia areata are still being discovered, but there are some which may help hair grow back quicker. Some may even prevent hair loss in the future.
Alopecia Areata: Causes
Different types of alopecia have different causes. The condition can be genetic or inherited, or even a combination of both, with certain environmental factors triggering a genetic response.
Some evidence suggests that the condition is caused by an irregularity in the immune system which results in autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is a misguided immune system, which tends to attack the body itself instead of defending it.
Alopecia Areata: Symptoms
Here are the most common symptoms of alopecia areata:
- Fingernails may develop pitting
- Bald patches, or hair that is really easy to pull out
- Uneven hair loss
- Tingling in the area of scalp that has lost its hair
Treatments for Alopecia
While there are no known cures for alopecia areata, it is possible to treat it. These treatments may stop future hair loss or even help the hair grow back more quickly.
There are many topical medications you can rub on your scalp, such as minixidil, which helps stimulate hair growth. Other therapies used to treat the condition include steroid injections and ointments. In some cases, photo-chemotherapy may also help.
Some people with alopecia choose alternatives for treating the condition, including:
- Herbal supplements
There are also steps that can be taken to minimize the discomfort brought on by the condition. These include:
- Wearing a wig, scarf, hat or some other protection for the scalp
- Wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from direct sunlight (for the eyelashes)
- Applying sunscreen to shield the exposed areas from sunburns