The Causes and Treatment of Alopecia Areata

The word “Alopecia” has been derived from the ancient Greek word, which when translated roughly means “Fox Disease”. This is because of the phenomenon that foxes does shed their fur for two times in a year. The word “Areata” means something that “occurs in patches”. Alopecia Areata is a disorder by which the body’s immune system generates signals to the WBC (White Blood Cells) to attack the healthy hair follicles, and hence is an autoimmune disease. Alopecia causes the healthy hair follicles to shirk, which results in a varying degree of visible hair loss. While most commonly the hair loss happens on the scalp, it can also sometimes happen on our body and face.

While there is no cure for this malady, but once the immune system stops attacking the healthy follicle cells, it is always possible to regrow the hairs back during the next hair cycle.

Some Facts and Stats about Alopecia

-Although Alopecia can happen at any age, but most frequently it starts during the childhood.

-Estimated nearly 20% of Alopecia patients, the recurrence of hair loss becomes permanent.

-There are more than 147 million people who are affected with Alopecia worldwide.

-Finger nails of 7-49% of Alopecia patients gets affected with this disease (in severe cases).

-More than 90% of Alopecia patients who has less than one-quarter scalp involvement, experience     regrowth of the hairs in 2 years.

-The peak age of getting affected with Alopecia is in-between 15-29.

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

The main and most obvious symptom of Alopecia is hair loss. Patches of hair, from the scalp begin to fall out when someone gets affected with this disease. Other than the scalp, Alopecia can also impact the facial hairs, like mustache, beard, eyelashes, eyebrows and the body hairs. Alopecia generally starts suddenly and can progress in a very short span of time. Visible changes in the toenails and fingernails may also at times be the first signs to show the onset of this incurable disease even bore it affects the hairs. It happens because the constantly cycling regrowth in nails gets suppressed by this disease.

Diagnosis

Since the symptoms of Alopecia are quite simple and distinctive, this disease can be diagnosed easily. Persons affected with this disease generally shows signs of rapid and random fall out of hairs in patches.

The three most primary forms of Alopecia are:

Alopecia Areata Patchy

This is the most common variation of this disease which results in patchy hair depletion, mainly in the scalp region or other hairy areas on the body.

Alopecia Areata Totalis

This condition results in complete hair loss and affects only the scalp.

Alopecia Areata Universalis

This is a very rare symptom of Alopecia, which results in complete hair loss on the body, face and scalp.

Causes of Alopecia

Although stress is considered as the primary cause of Alopecia, as extreme stress triggers this disease in some people nevertheless, recent studies show that genetic causes are also responsible for this incurable malady. It has been also clinically recorded that 1 in 5 Alopecia patients have a family member with this disease. Medical researchers also believe that people who are predisposed or already suffering from autoimmune disorders such as lupus, vitiligo, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, Addison’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of developing Alopecia.

Treatment of Alopecia

The treatment of Alopecia depends on the intensity of the hair loss. It also depends on the patient’s general health and the area where the hair loss is occurring. Treatment for Alopecia includes applying medicated creams and ointment, using corticosteroid injections and light therapy. These treatments generally turn off the signals that induce these cell attacks. They can also stimulate healthy cell growth in the next hair growth cycle if the autoimmunity has returned to normal. However, there is no Alopecia treatment which works for everyone