Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss. It affects about 6.8 million people or about 1 out of every 20 people in the United States. In most cases, hair falls out in small patches around the size of a quarter for most people, but it can be more extreme for some people.
Alopecia areata is a condition where your hair falls out and then starts to grow back. It can affect you when you are young or old. Some people only lose hair on the scalp, and in rare cases, it can happen all over your body. This article looks at alopecia areata, its causes and symptoms, and treatments.
The most obvious symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. There will be patches of hair that fall out, mainly from the scalp. Any site where there is hair can be affected, including the beard and eyelashes. The loss of hair may happen suddenly or over a few weeks. Itchy or burning in the area before hair loss may happen too. Hair follicles are not destroyed and so new hairs can grow if the inflammation subsides.
About 30% of people who develop alopecia areata find that the condition becomes more extensive or becomes a continuous cycle of hair loss and regrowth. About half the people get better within 1 year. Some patients will experience more than one episode. Around 10% of people will go on to develop alopecia totalis or alopecia Universalis.
The condition occurs when white blood cells attack hair follicles. This makes the hair follicles shrink and slows down how much hair you can grow. It is not known why this happens, but there are a lot of different possibilities.
Scientists don’t know how this happens. Genetics are involved because people with close family members with the disease are more likely to develop alopecia areata. For example, one of five people with the disease has a family member with alopecia areata.
Research about people with a family history of alopecia areata also has a personal or family history of other autoimmune disorders, like atopy. It is when someone might be too allergic to things. For example, they have thyroiditis, and they have vitiligo too.
There is no cure for alopecia areata, but doctors can suggest treatments to help hair grow back faster. For example, doctors might give you corticosteroids. These are powerful drugs that suppress the immune system and stop inflammation. They might also prescribe an anti-inflammatory cream or medicine or a drug that affects your immune system.
A lot of people lose their hair when they get cancer. But some treatments can help, like photochemotherapy. Some studies show that this is a good option for people who don’t want to use other treatments or can’t use them. In addition, hair protects you from the outside world in many ways, so if you are bald from alopecia areata and miss your hair, you could try photochemotherapy.
The use of hair growth supplements may help with preventing further hair loss and supporting new hair growth. These natural hair growth supplements include Saw palmetto, Biotin, Iron, Zinc which are clinically proven to take care of hair growth.
Alopecia areata is not a disease that will make you sick. It is not contagious. But it can be hard to adapt to emotionally. For many people, alopecia areata is a significant disease and warrants treatment addressing the emotional aspect of hair loss and the hair loss itself. Support groups and counseling sessions are available for people who want to share their thoughts and feelings about this condition or for people who want to discuss common psychological reactions to it.
Alopecia areata and vitiligo are similar. They both happen when the body attacks cells that make the color. The cells that make color for Alopecia areata will not grow back, but the cells that color for Vitiligo will grow back. It’s hard to say what will happen in the future, but it would be good to find anything new for either disease because they are very similar.
As there are not many treatments for alopecia, research on natural treatments for alopecia is even less likely to be done. Some people think that rubbing onion juice or garlic juice into the scalp may help. Other people say that cool green tea, almond oil, rosemary oil, honey, or coconut milk may also help. Unfortunately, we don’t know if they work because we haven’t studied them enough.