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Alopecia areata, which is commonly referred to simply as alopecia, is a hair-loss condition. It is usually only scalp hair that falls out. Although hair elsewhere on the body such as the face, eye lashes and eye brows can be affected too, involvement in those areas is not common.
True Alopecia areata is relatively rare and is not the same as typical male pattern baldness or thinning hair from age. Alopecia affects only about 0.1% to 0.2% of the population at any given time. Alopecia is most common among kids, teenagers and young adults, although it occasionally occurs in toddlers and older adults. Men and women are equally likely to develop alopecia areata; genetic or hereditary factors may be behind a decent percentage of cases.
Dr. Pilest will be able to determine if your hair loss is true alopecia or more common hair loss conditions that occur over time. The video below is more focused on common hair loss and thinning. PRP for thinning hair is a new and increasingly effective improvement treatment.
Causes of Alopecia
Researchers and medical professionals are uncertain of what causes or triggers alopecia. It is generally believed, however, that the condition involves an abnormality in the body’s immune system. The abnormality causes an autoimmunity, which attacks various tissues in the body. In the case of alopecia, the tissues in and around the body’s hair follicles are primarily affected. As a result, existing hair is shed and new hair is unable to grow in normally. The hair loss in alopecia will usually occur quite rapidly.
Although an immune system response seems to be at the root of alopecia, it is unclear why it happens in the first place. From time to time, cases of alopecia coincide with other conditions including:
- thyroid disease
- allergic disorders
- ulcerative colitis
- rheumatoid arthritis
Alopecia is not known to be the side effect of any type of medication or medical treatment. In addition, alopecia occasionally runs in families and may have genetic or hereditary causes. Finally, thinning hair and hair loss in women is occasionally caused by thyroid disorders; in men, male pattern hair loss is sometimes behind the problem.
Symptoms of Alopecia
The most apparent symptom of alopecia is, naturally, hair loss. However, the condition usually causes distinctive, telltale symptoms. These include:
- one or more bald spots on the scalp
- small, soft spots of hair loss that are usually round in shape
- tingling or slight pain at the affected area of the body – usually the scalp
- hair loss occurs within a very short period of time
- pitted toenails and/or fingernails sometimes develop at the same time
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Types of Alopecia
There are several different manifestations of alopecia. A few of the most common ones include:
- Alopecia areata – The most common form of alopecia, and usually what people are referring to when they talk about alopecia. Involves patches of hair loss on the scalp.
- Diffuse Alopecia areata – A uniform thinning of the hair on the scalp that arises out of the blue and within a very short time frame.
- Alopecia Totalis – The complete loss of hair on the scalp, resulting in total baldness.
- Alopecia Universalis – An extremely rare form of alopecia in which all of the hair on the head and body falls out.
- Alopecia areata Barbe – Alopecia that is localized on a man’s beard.
In approximately 50% of alopecia cases, hair grows back in all on its own, without any help, medication or treatment. The longer the condition subsists, the less likely it is that hair will grow back unprompted. As a chronic disorder, there is no cure for alopecia; however, it can be treated and managed, and hair grows back approximately 90% of the time.
Common or routine treatments for alopecia include:
- shampoos and cortisone containing creams for the scalp that include medication like Clobetasol or Fluocinonide
- localized steroid injections
- minoxidil-based products, like Rogaine
- laser light treatments
- topical coal tar, an irritant
- topical immunotherapy, like cyclosporine
- topical corticosteroids, but only at the onset of the condition; beyond that, they are not very effective
In the past, oral corticosteroids were occasionally prescribed to treat alopecia. However, the huge range of unpleasant side effects that such pills cause made them an unrealistic option for treating this condition.
Since alopecia usually resolves itself over time, many sufferers simply choose to wear wigs, hats, scarves and other items to conceal the issue throughout its duration.
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*Individual Results May Vary
Although it is uncommon, the hair loss that is caused by alopecia is occasionally permanent. As mentioned above, oral corticosteroids are not recommended for the treatment of alopecia, since they cause a large number of side effects.
There is no known way to prevent alopecia. The primary risk factor for alopecia seems to be genetics; if a parent or grandparent has suffered from this chronic condition, then you might, too. The only technique that seems to have any positive affect on warding off alopecia is eliminating stress, but it has not been proven in medical studies. Since no serious health risks are associated with alopecia, the vast majority of sufferers simply wait it out and go on about their lives as usual.
Take the First Step – Request a Consultation
If you would like to schedule an in-person consultation or learn which treatment is right for you, please fill out the form on this page and one of our knowledgeable medical staff members at Total Dermatology will reach out to you promptly. You can also call our Irvine office directly to schedule. (949) 727-3800
Total Dermatology serves the Irvine, CA area.
*Individual Results May Vary