How to Treat Alopecia Areata
The term alopecia areata refers to the body losing hair, usually at the scalp. This can result in thinning hair,
hair falling out, or complete baldness. In many cases, the head is only balding in spots, which can make it a very
embarrassing disease. In about one to two percent of alopecia areata cases, the person can lose their hair on the entire
body. The problem does not only affect men, but also can affect women as well, although the number of men with the
disease is larger and more common. It can affect people who are generally overall healthy, and have no other
underlying health issues. The problem usually begins in the teenage years and becomes more pronounced as the patient
gets older, but usually affects people who are in their early 30s and older. There are several different types of
alopecia areata, meaning the hair loss or baldness can affect different areas of the body. Some versions affect the
pubic hair areas; some types can only affect facial hair and beards.
- NAAF – This is an organization that represents
sufferers nationwide. Provides good resources and information for patients who are dealing with the disease.
- Definitions and Causes – Some
basic information, including what it is, what causes it, and what treatments are available.
- American Academy of Dermatology – Representing many different skin conditions, including alopecia areata.
- Information – More information and photos of people who have the disease.
Alopecia areata is not a contagious disease, which means it cannot be passed from one person to another. Heredity
is a possible factor as well as a potential autoimmune disorder. This disorder can attack hair follicles and result
in the body's inability to grow new hair. Sometimes, stress or other emotional related issues can help to trigger the
problem and make it worse. Some people have been diagnosed as having the disease at birth, although instances such as
this are very rare. Small balding patches on the scalp or other parts of the body are the first symptoms of alopecia
areata. The person who has this disease may feel a slight tingling or mild pain at the areas of hair loss, unlike
normal "shedding" of the hair follicles. Another unusual symptom is the pitting of fingernails, although this could
possibly be a symptom of other diseases as well. Doctors will typically attempt to pull a tuft of hair from the patient
using normal force, and if a large area of hair, particularly in one place falls out very easily, then it could be
an indication of the disease.
- Hair Loss
– Different causes of hair loss from the Mayo Clinic
- Q&A – Some
questions and answers from the NIAMS
- Resources – A list of
resources where people can go for treatment options, help, and more information.
About half of people suffering from alopecia areata will experience hair loss for about one year, and then the
hair may grow back. If the affected are is fairly small, doctors may not prescribe any treatment and just advise
the patient to wait it out. Some patients opt to wear hats or hair pieces to cover up the hair loss. There are
some oral medications that people can take to help lessen the hair loss, and these can prompt the hair follicle to
stay healthy and encourage hair growth. Topical medications are also sometimes prescribed, but these tend to be
less effective than the oral versions. Female patients may choose to wear a wig to simply mask the problem, while
others allow their hair to fall out naturally until they are bald. There are usually no serious side effects of
this disease other than cosmetic ones, but some patients may also have allergies, asthma, or other issues. Only
about ten percent of people who have alopecia areata will never re-grow their hair. About 90 percent of patients
eventually see their hair grow back. While this disease can be a bit embarrassing, fortunately nothing has shown
it to be very serious in terms of overall health.
More About Warts