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Alopecia Areata Hair Loss Information
One type of hair loss, Alopecia Areata, also known as ‘spot balding’is known to cause one or more patches of non-scarring hair loss, primarily effecting the scalp area but can affect any hair bearing skin surface. It is an acquired condition, with possible hereditary predisposition, and is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, a result of the body mistakenly recognizing hair follicles as a threat. There is some scientific evidence that alopecia attacks the portions of the hair follicle associated with color, based on the observation that gray hair is rarely affected.
This type of hair loss affects both males and females and is common in children. It is not normally associated with any disease process. Untreated, it normally resolves itself within a year’s time but sometimes the resulting hair loss is permanent. However, treatments do exist and will encourage hair regrowth, but frequently do not work consistently for all hair loss sufferers.
The course of this short-term condition normally starts with small bald patches, usually oval or round. These bald patches may be tingly or even painful with the skin itself appearing normal and unscarred. Interestingly, different areas of skin may simultaneously exhibit hair loss and hair regrowth.
The clinical diagnosis of Alopecia Areata is based on its visual features with biopsies rarely being needed. In order to make a differential diagnosis a dermatologist will use ‘trichoscopy’ to look for ‘hyperkeratotic plugs’; yellow dots on the skin surface, ‘micro-exclamation mark hairs’; hairs that appear thinned to the appearance of an exclamation mark, and ‘black dots’; the remains of destroyed hair follicles in the follicle opening. Although the actual causes of Alopecia Areata is not completely understood, it is known that this condition often has spontaneous remission without treatment. In cases of severe hair loss physicians have had limited success treating the hair loss with corticosteroids, orally, injected or applied externally in cream form. There are other treatments, also of varying reliability such as steroid creams or irritants.
Normally, hair lost to Alopecia Areata will grow back in a few months. Severe cases, however, can progress to become Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis which leads to permanent, large scale hair loss.
Problems associated with Alopecia can be both psychological or physical in nature. related to embarassment or loss of self-image resulting from hair loss. This damage to self-image can create problems with social phobia, depression and/or anxiety. Physically, loss of thinning of hair can lead to sunburned scalps. Additionally, loss of nasal hair can increase incidents of hay fever.
Alopecia Areata is a condition worthy of prompt medical attention. Working with a dermologist can minimize the damage done to hair and skin, as well as the other problems that are associated with hair loss.