Alopecia areata is a hair-loss disease that affects more than 1 million people in a year globally. It is an autoimmune disease where the immunity system attacks the hair follicles causing the hair to fall out in lumps. The hair fall is such that it causes baldness in a coin-shaped pattern on the scalp. The amount of hair loss differs from patient to patient. Some individuals lose hair only in a few spots, whereas others lose a lot of hair. It can affect anyone irrespective of the gender or age factor, although the chances are that one will encounter it before the age of 30.

Types

  • Patchy Alopecia Areata: It is a form of coin-sized hair loss on the scalp or any other part of the body that grow hair.
  • Alopecia Totalis: In this type of alopecia, loss of hair occurs on the whole scalp.
  • Alopecia Universalis: This form of alopecia is more advanced than alopecia totalis wherein hair loss occurs across the whole body including the scalp, face, and pubic area.
  • Persistent patchy alopecia areata: It is identified by patchy hair loss on the scalp that remains for a considerable amount of time without developing into alopecia universalis or totalis.

Signs and Symptoms

Patchy hair loss is the most common sign of alopecia areata. One can notice coin-shaped bald patches on the scalp or sudden hair loss from any part of the body including face, legs, arms, etc. The hair loss can happen all of a sudden or develop in a few days or over a couple of months. Those affected may encounter burning or itching sensation on the spot before hair loss. If the hair follicles aren’t destroyed, hair can regrow if and when the inflammation subsides. People who experience stress or depression are at a higher risk of getting affected by alopecia areata than a person who doesn’t suffer from these psychological conditions.

Alopecia areata also affects the toenails and fingernails of a person. One can see visible linear lines and dents on the nails. The nails also lose their shine and become rough.

Causes

Alopecia areata is caused by an anomaly in the immune system that results in autoimmunity. In this, the immune system tends to attack the body, particularly the tissues. In alopecia areata, the body’s immune system affects the hair follicles and interfere with normal hair growth. A biopsy conducted on the disease showcased immune lymphocytes piercing into the hair follicles causing them to fall out. In some cases, alopecia areata is associated with other autoimmune conditions such as vitiligo, lupus, thyroid, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Alopecia areata can also occur within the family hinting a role of genetics.

Treatment

The severity of the disease decides the treatment. Since alopecia areata has a different effect on each individual, one has to get treated accordingly. Always keep in mind that alopecia areata has no cure. Nonetheless, it can be treated, and the hair can regrow accordingly. People suffering from alopecia areata are prescribed amino acid supplements containing L-tyrosine as it helps to reduce autoinflammation. One must also focus on their diet and include nutritional foods in meals. A healthy lifestyle is also essential to reduce hair fall so one must undertake physical activities like yoga, meditation or gym to maintain work-life balance. Alternative therapies such as aromatherapy and acupuncture have also shown improved results.

Alopecia areata can be bothersome for both men and women. There are many ways to treat it, but one must first find out the type of alopecia areata that they are suffering from. This way, they will be able to find the best course and get it treated.

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