Alopecia Areata - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Alopecia areata i.e. baldness in spots, is considered as an autoimmune disease which results in hair loss from areas of the body, usually from the scalp. The immune system, which is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, the tiny cup-shaped structures from which hairs grow. As in the starting it causes bald spots on the head, it is also called spot baldness. Hair loss can extend to eyebrows, eyelashes and facial and nasal hair and create more bald spots elsewhere in the body.
Mostly, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In many cases, the disease usually does not extend beyond a few bare patches. Hair loss is more extensive in some people. There are rare cases where the disease causes total loss of hair on the head, face, and body.
Types of alopecia areata:
- Alopecia Areata monolocularis: Baldness in only one spot.
- Alopecia Areata totalis: Complete hair lose on the scalp.
- Alopecia Areata universalis: The case in which all body hair, including pubic hair,are lost.
- Alopecia Areata barbae: The disease limited only to the beard
- Diffuse Alopecia Areata: A possible condition may cause a person with mixed grey and dark hairs losing all dark hairs at once due to psychological trauma .
The possible symptoms for alopecia areata may includes:-
- The primary symptom of alopecia areata roundish patches of hair loss on the head, with smooth, hairless scalp in the affected areas. Symptoms can vary from bald patches, to complete scalp baldness, to loss of all scalp and body hair. People with this condition are otherwise in generally good health.
- Quite often the bald patch or patches re-grow hair within a few months. If hair grows back it may not have its usual colour at first and looks grey or white for a while. The usual colour eventually returns after several months.
- Sometimes several small bald patches develop and merge into a larger bald area.
- Hairs that look like exclamation points are sometime seen at the edges of a bald patch.
- The nails are affected in about 1 in 5 cases and become pitted or ridged.
- The hair stops growing and then falls out from the roots.
- Some people become self-conscious, anxious or distressed by the appearance of the hair loss.
The main causes of alopecia areata may includes:-
- Exact cause of why the hair follicles undergo these changes is not known, but it is considered to be genetically passed or triggered.
- Alopecia areata is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly treats its hair follicles as foreign tissue and suppresses or stops hair growth.
- Immune system cells called white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles, resulting in smaller follicles and immense reduction in hair production. Fortunately, the stem cells that continually supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted. So the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair.
- The disease is not contagious but may be hereditary.
- Stress may be the cause of Alopecia Areata but it is rarely observed.
The effective treatments for alopecia areata may include:-
- Patchy alopecia areata generally clears up on its own within several months to several years.
- Some patients of alopecia areata respond well to drugs that promote hair regrowth, containing minoxidil and finasteride.
- A cream or ointment containing anthralin has also been found to stimulate new hair growth in those with mild cases of alopecia areata. Anthralin which is a synthetic tar-like substance altering immune function in the affected skin makes the condition better.
- Corticosteroids:Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs has similarity to a hormone called cortisol produced in the body.
- Cortisone pills may be prescribed in cases of substantial hair loss.
- Local injections: Injections of steroids directly into hairless patches on the scalp and sometimes the brow and beard areas are effectively in increases the hair growth in most people.
- Fasalazine: A sulfa drug, is used as a treatment for different autoimmune disorders.