Alopecia Areata: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Alopecia Areata is a form of hair loss which usually occurs on the head, however, in many cases, the hair loss can take place at any part of the body where hair grows naturally. People affected by Alopecia will witness patches of hair loss and there will not be any change in the texture of the skin. It is called as non-scarring Alopecia. The condition is present in both men and women. The loss of hair follicles will take place through the misguided immune system.

In most of the cases, the condition is overcome without any treatment. However, there will be permanent loss of hair in some people. There are various kinds of treatments to overcome the hair loss. In some patients, multiple treatments are required. One in five people will be affected by Alopecia Areata.

What is Alopecia Areata?

It is a skin disease which affects the hair-bearing skin. Hair loss will take place. However, there will not be the formation of any scar on the skin. Some people suffer from other kinds of medical issues as well. The hair may grow instantly in bald areas. Alopecia areata should be differentiated from the hair fall that may occur after the discontinuation of the hormone therapy. With the autoimmune disorder, the healthy cells are assumed to be foreign substances. The condition can be managed and it has no cure.

Causes of Alopecia Areata

  • It is unlikely that children below 3 years to be affected by Alopecia Areata.
  • Most of the patients get Alopecia Areata through inheritance.
  • If there is an abnormality in the immune system, it will lead to the loss of hair. The immune system will be misguided and it will attack the healthy area of the body. In this process, particular tissues of the body will be attacked.
  • As per biopsies of the skin of the affected person, it will be revealed that immune lymphocytes will penetrate into the bulb of hair follicles.
  • Alopecia areata may be present with other autoimmune disorders such as thyroid, vitiligo, lupus, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Sometimes, Alopecia areata will be witnessed by the family members and it will indicate the role of genes.
  • Hair loss is the common problem for most of the people. Some people lose hair during very young age as well.
  • The hair loss is common in both men and women. However, it is dramatic in women.
  • The hair loss can take place through the breakage of the shaft or fall from the roots.
  • Hair loss will take place through the chemotherapy, vitamin deficiency and protein deficiency. The other factors include thyroid dysfunction and anaemia. Alopecia areata is characterized by the autoimmune disorder. The hair follicles will take place in localized areas of the skin.

The white blood cells in the blood will attack cells in hair follicles and it will lead to the shrinkage and slow down of growth of hair. However, the exact reason that leads to the attack of the body’s immune system was not traced.

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Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

When the body’s own immune system attacks, there will be disruption of usual hair formation. Hair loss is the prominent system with the disease. The patches will form several centimetres and the size will be less as well. There will be hair loss in other parts of the body as well. As the hair loss will take place with other kinds of diseases, you should be able to distinguish Alopecia areata. The doctor will confirm the disease after the physical examination and clinical tests.

  • One or more well-defined spots of hair loss will appear on the scalp.
  • In some people, large areas of the scalp will be affected and the hair loss will take place for a long period of time.
  • Diffuse alopecia areata is the term used to denote the widespread thinning of scalp hair. The hair loss will be unpredictable and it will be random.
  • If the hair loss takes place on the entire scalp, it is known as alopecia totalis.
  • Initially, you may notice clumps of hair while taking shower or on the pillow.
  • If the hair loss frequency is less and in some parts of the body, it is known as alopecia universalis. The entire body will be affected by hair loss.
  • People between 30 and 60 years of age will be affected by Alopecia areata. However, it can affect old people as well.
  • The health professionals will diagnose Alopecia areata through the presence of well-circumscribed areas which should have been filled with natural hair.
  • The symptoms of Alopecia areata are straightforward. Hence, it is possible to confirm the disease through the diagnosis.
  • The hair loss and growth varies from one person to another person.

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Diagnosis of Alopecia Areata

  • Hairs affected by the disease will be examined under the microscope.
  • If the clinical examination fails to figure out the disease, a biopsy will be performed.
  • To confirm the diagnosis, a biopsy will be performed on the scalp. The diagnosis will be confirmed after the biopsy.
  • A small piece of skin will be removed from the scalp for biopsy.
  • By conducting the blood test, it is possible to rule out the possibility of the autoimmune disease.
  • The type of blood test will be based on the nature of the disorder suspected by the doctor.
  • The doctor will also test for the presence of one or more abnormal antibodies in the blood.
  • The other blood tests which can be suggested by the doctor include c-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, iron levels, an antinuclear antibody test, free & total testosterone, thyroid hormone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
  • If there is the presence of short hair or grey hair or short thin hair in the bald area, it will be helpful in the diagnosis.
  • The history and clinical evaluation will confirm the disease.

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Treatment of Alopecia Areata

  • It is not possible to predict Alopecia areata as the likelihood of spontaneous remission. The hair re-growth chance will be little when large areas of the head are affected and the hair loss takes place for a long period of time.
  • There are various kinds of treatments to overcome the Alopecia areata. However, it is difficult to predict the results precisely.
  • Intracutaneous injections offered locally will be very much helpful in overcoming the hair loss as it can restart the hair growth cycle in a very efficient manner.
  • There will be a limited benefit with the application of steroid creams, lotions and shampoos.
  • It is possible to witness quick results through the intake of oral systemic steroids as they will induce hair growth. However, there will be side effects.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis of the scalp can be created by using sensitizers and diphencyprone or squaric acid dibutylester. If you are suffering from recalcitrant alopecia areata or with more than 50% hair loss, you can undergo the process.
  • By using topical sensitizers, it is possible to achieve hair regrowth as the alteration of the immune response will take place. It is an efficient method for young children as well as adults.
  • Oral Janus kinase inhibitors such as tofacitinib and baricitinib can be used on a short-term basis. If there is severe Alopecia areata, you can go for the treatment so that there will be best results. However, Oral Janus kinase inhibitors should not be used on a long-term basis as there will be health complications or side effects.
  • Some medications will be fruitful as long as the patient is under the medication. The results will be reversed or the hair loss will recur after the discontinuation of the medication.
  • If the patient is unwilling to go for systemic or invasive therapy, photochemotherapy will be suggested.

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Prevention of Alopecia Areata

  • It is not possible to prevent Alopecia areata. However, you can take certain precautions in avoiding the stressful conditions. The stress will have a great effect on your health and it will lead to hair loss as well.
  • There will be significant hair loss in both men and women through the emotional impact.
  • Some medications to enhance the immune disorder will help in the hair regrowth. However, it is not possible to prevent new patches. The mediation is available to improve the hair growth.
  • People suffering from Alopecia areata should wear protective elements to cover the head. The hair present on the head will protect the body from the heat. Patients can wear sunscreen to get protection from the sun. headwear such as hats, wigs and scarves can be worn to protect your head.
  • By wearing wraparound glasses, it is possible to protect the eyes from the sun. Eyebrows and eyelashes will protect your eyes from debris. With the loss of hair, you should wear a guard.
  • The nostril hair will trap organisms in a natural way. If you lose nostril hair, you should use ointment to get protection.
  • As per researchers, the occurrence of Alopecia areata is high in people who have a family history of type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • There are certain factors in the environment which will lead to Alopecia areata.

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Complications of Alopecia Areata

  • Alopecia areata is a common hair loss disorder and it is unpredictable. As there is no cure for Alopecia areata at the moment, doctors will suggest medication to enhance the hair regrowth at the earliest.
  • The oral application of steroids may give quick results. However, there may be side effects as well. If you experience contraindications after the use of medication, you should consult the physician immediately.
  • Alopecia areata is an emotional disease. People will go through the trauma and you should take steps to overcome the same. The emotional aspect should be addressed. The stress will have an impact on hair loss.
  • To overcome the emotional stress, it is possible to join the support group so that they can share their thoughts and get encouragement from others who are going through the similar condition.

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Myths related to Alopecia  Areata

Myth #1: Alopecia areata is contagious

Fortunately, Alopecia areata is not contagious. It is different from hair shredding and it may occur after the discontinuation of the hormonal therapy.

Myth #2: The stress will lead to Alopecia areata

There is no scientific evidence that stress will lead to Alopecia areata.

Myth #3: You will become sick if you are affected by Alopecia areata

There is no tendency of getting sick with Alopecia areata. People affected by Alopecia areata should be able to adapt to the change.

Myth #4: Alopecia areata is similar to vitiligo

Even though Alopecia areata is similar to vitiligo, there is a clear difference. Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin disease and it will attack the melanin-producing cells in the skin. It results in the formation of white patches. As per researchers, both the conditions will share a similar pathogenesis. There will be an attack on similar kind of immune cells and cytokines which drive the disease. They have common genetic risk factors as well.

Myth #5: Alopecia areata can be cured

There is no cure for Alopecia areata. However, the condition can be managed by undergoing the medication suggested by the doctor.

Myth #6: Quick medication will lead to quick results

If you go for quick medication through an oral application, there may be quick results. However, it may lead to side effects in the long run.

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Conclusion

There will be unpredictable hair loss when you are affected by Alopecia areata. In most of the people, the hair loss will take place in small patches. The size of hair loss will be one quarter. In some people, there will be extreme hair loss. In extreme cases, it will lead to complete hair loss on the scalp and on the body. In most of the cases, the condition can affect either male or female and before the age of 30. The disease will develop suddenly and it will intensify in a few days. There will be a full recovery without treatment in some patients. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alopecia areata.

Last updated on : 24-12-2018

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