Alopecia areata is a medical condition characterized by the occasional occurrence of hair falling out in patches from the head, face, or, in rare instances, from the body. When this happens, it can be treated with oral medications, injections, or laser therapy.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Alopecia Areata?
- 2 What are the Causes of Alopecia Areata?
- 3 What are the Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?
- 4 Affected Body Areas
- 5 How to Diagnose Alopecia Areata?
- 6 Treatment Options
- 7 Consultation
What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks hair follicles. As a result, robust hair fall starts, leaving bald patches on different body parts. To date, the exact causes of this medical situation are considered to be numerous. However, its fortunate aspect is that it is treatable.
What are the Causes of Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is primarily considered an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly targets hair follicles as foreign invaders, leading to hair loss. Furthermore, its causes are as follows:
There’s a genetic component to alopecia areata, as it tends to run in families. Individuals with a family history of the condition might be more susceptible.
Certain environmental factors and triggers might play a role in triggering or exacerbating alopecia areata in genetically predisposed individuals. These triggers can include viral infections, stress, trauma, and hormonal changes.
An imbalance in immune response, particularly involving T cells, cytokines, and other immune system components, contributes to the inflammation and hair follicle damage characteristic of alopecia areata.
Stress and psychological factors:
Psychological stress and emotional distress are thought to influence the onset and progression of alopecia areata. However, they are more likely to exacerbate the condition rather than being the sole cause.
Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during puberty or pregnancy, might influence the onset of alopecia areata, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.
Some research suggests that exposure to certain chemicals, toxins, or allergens might trigger alopecia areata in susceptible individuals.
Nutritional deficiencies, especially those involving essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron, and zinc, could potentially contribute to hair loss in individuals with alopecia areata.
Remember that the exact cause of alopecia areata is complex and not fully understood. It likely involves a combination of genetic predisposition, immune system abnormalities, and various triggering factors.
What are the Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?
Similar to the causes, the symptoms of alopecia areata vary. Nonetheless, we can recognize it by the following symptoms:
- Sudden hair fall
- Hair fall in patches
- Loss of eyebrows, eyelashes
- Men can see beard hair loss
- The fingers and toenails can become red.
Affected Body Areas
Alopecia areata typically manifests as circular or oval patches of hair loss on the scalp. However, it can affect other areas of the body as well, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, mustache, and other body hair. In some cases, individuals may experience a more widespread form of the condition called alopecia totalis, which leads to the complete loss of scalp hair, or alopecia universalis, which involves the loss of all body hair.
How to Diagnose Alopecia Areata?
- Typically, dermatologists can diagnose alopecia areata by simply looking at the round patches on the scalp. For further confirmation, they may take some hairs from the affected sight and examine them under a microscope.
- In other cases, they can take your blood for a laboratory test to identify any autoimmune conditions.
- In complex cases, a biopsy may be performed.
Various treatment options are available for alopecia areata, aimed at stimulating hair regrowth and managing the autoimmune response.
Immunotherapy involves applying a chemical irritant like diphencyprone (DPCP) to the scalp, triggering an immune response. This localized immune response is believed to counteract the autoimmune attack on hair follicles and promote regrowth.
Intralesional corticosteroid injections are administered directly into the affected areas of the scalp. This approach is particularly effective for treating localized patches of hair loss. These injections can help suppress inflammation and promote hair regrowth.
Mesotherapy for hair loss is a series of injections containing a mixture of vitamins, minerals, medications, and other nutrients that are injected into the middle layer of the skin in the affected area. For alopecia areata, these injections aim to improve hair growth and reduce hair inflammation.
Laser therapy involves the use of low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth. The light energy of the laser increases blood flow to the scalp, reduces inflammation, and encourages the activity of hair follicles.
Topical corticosteroids, often in the form of creams or ointments, can help reduce inflammation and encourage hair regrowth. These are applied directly to the affected areas.
Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed for more extensive cases of alopecia areata. However, their use is often limited due to potential side effects when taken over a long period.