Alopecia Areata- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition

Alopecia areata is a highly unpredictable, autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body.

Alopecia areata affects both males and females. This type of hair loss is different than male pattern baldness, an inherited condition.

Alopecia areata is found in three stages:

In the firststage- there is sudden hair loss. In the second stage patches of hair loss enlarge, and last, new hair grows back. This process takes months; sometimes more than a year, but rarely does the hair never grow back.

Causes

About 90 percent of the hair on most people’s scalps is in a two- to six-year growth (anagen) stage at any given time. In alopecia areata, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. It is not clear why the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Fortunately, the follicles retain their ability to regrow hair, and the hair loss is not permanent in the majority of cases.

Alopecia areata is sometimes associated with other autoimmune conditions such as allergic disorders, thyroid disease, vitiligo, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Sometimes, alopecia areata occurs within family members, suggesting a role of genes and heredity.

Symptoms

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 site including eyebrows, eyelashes, and beards.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the extent of the disease, and the age of the patient. For small patchy disease, intralesional steroid injections (Kenalog(r)) are the best approach. Hair loss due to infection may require oral antibiotics or antifungals. Alopecia areata can be treated with injections of steroids such as triamcinolone into the area. For all of the causes, early treatment works the best.

Hair transplants and scalp reduction surgery are available to treat androgenetic alopecia when more conservative measures have failed. During transplantation a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon takes tiny plugs of skin, each containing one to several hairs, from the back or side of your scalp. The plugs are then implanted into the bald sections

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