Alopecia Universalis and Alopecia Totalis are two extreme and fortunately rare forms of hair loss. Alopecia Totalis refers to the total loss of hair from the scalp, and Alopecia Universalis refers to total loss of all body hair. Related to a more common and less extreme form of hair loss, Alopecia Areata, it is considered an autoimmune disorder; a condition where the human body develops an allergic reaction to itself and develops an inappropriate immune system reaction.
Generally diagnosed by dermatologists, these autoimmune conditions, and their related immune responses have frequently been linked to sudden stress reactions to illness, surgery, etc., Interestingly, Alopecia Universalis most often occurs in childhood, although it can affect individuals of either gender at any age. It is considered a skin disease because it affects all skin surface, scalp included. Surprisingly, however, it does not include any form of general physical illness, itching, hives or rashes.
Autoimmune diseases come in many forms, generally affecting hair, skin and joints. It is a result of the strength and effectiveness of the human immune system that exists to fight parasites, viruses, bacteria and other disease vectors. However, sometimes, for reasons not clearly understood, the human immune system will mistakenly and selectively attack parts of the body itself as though it was a disease, leaving overall health unaffected.
Researchers have come to believe that there may be a genetic component to this type of Alopecia in that approximately 20% of those affected by Alopecia Areata/Totalis/Universalis have at least one family member also affected by some form of hair loss. When a patient presents with any form of autoimmune Alopecia prior to age 30 it is highly likely that they also have relatives affected by hair loss.
Unfortunately, there is not yet any known cure for these autoimmune forms of Alopecia. However, the hair follicles generally remain alive and unharmed and appear ready and able to regrow hair once the body signals them to. Hair regrowth has been known to resume normally without treatment even after several years.
There are currently no approved treatments for Alopecia Universalis, but some medical practitioners will use off-label treatments for Alopecia Areata. Research continues into injectable stem cell/platelet treatments to stimulate hair regrowth. Otherwise, many of those who suffer from Alopecia use variously made wigs or hair pieces to disguise hair loss on the scalp and improve the self-esteem and self-image of the hair loss victim.