Non-Communicable Diseases
Alopecia Areata

​​Overview:

  • Alopecia areata is a non-contagious autoimmune disease that occurs at any age. Its degree varies from one person to another.
  • The disease causes hair loss on the scalp and other places on the body.
  • Hair loss is the first sign of alopecia. It usually starts in the scalp.
  • Some medications help reduce and control the disease. 
  • You cannot avoid or prevent this condition; however, you can keep it under control.
Introduction:
Alopecia a non-contagious autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in one or multiple areas of the scalp, face, or body, without leaving scars or marks. The disease affects people of all ages, but most cases develop in childhood.

Other names:
Spot baldness, autoimmune alopecia

Types of alopecia:
  • Alopecia areata (patchy): It is the form with patches on the scalp.
  • Alopecia totalis: Alopecia totalis results in hair loss across the entire scalp.
  • Alopecia universalis: This type results in hair loss across the entire scalp and face, plus the rest of the body.
Cause:
The disease occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicle, causing hair loss. Several factors may lead to the appearance of alopecia, but the exact cause is still unknown.

Risk factors:
There are factors that contribute to stimulating the immune system to attack hair follicles, including:
  • Genetics;
  • Family history;
  • Other autoimmune diseases; 
  • Some environmental factors and triggers;
  • Viral or bacterial infections;
  • Stress.
Other diseases that may accompany alopecia:
People who have autoimmune diseases such as alopecia, are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases such as:
Thyroid disease and vitiligo
Asthma, allergies, eczema, hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
Symptoms:
Hair loss is the first sign of alopecia. It usually begins in the scalp, and could also become apparent in the beard, eyebrows, pubic area, arms, and legs. It may appear in the form of: 
  • Round or oval bald patches that seem to appear overnight. 
  • Bald patches with a smooth texture, free of hair roots.
Alopecia may affect fingernails or toenails. It can appear as scratches, white spots, roughness, or a loss of shine in the nails. Alopecia rarely causes the nails to change or fall out.

When to see a doctor?
You should see your doctor when you notice sudden hair loss and bald patches, as sudden hair loss can indicate a medical condition that requires treatment.

Complications:
Alopecia areata patients are at risk of psychosocial disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Diagnosis:
  • Clinical examination
  • Laboratory tests: Biopsy of the scalp and/or hair tissue, and skin scraping to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Blood analysis; to rule out other autoimmune diseases.
Treatment:
There is no definitive treatment for alopecia. The results of the treatment depend greatly on how each person’s immune system responds. Hair often grows back on its own. Some medications can help reduce and control the disease, and may also help with hair regrowth. These medications include:
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are medications that suppress the immune system. They come in the form of a cream, lotion, or topical ointment applied to the skin.
  • Corticosteroid pills: They are not routinely prescribed because of their dangerous side effects.
  • Minoxidil: A hair growth medication.
  • Anthralin: A drug that alters the immune function of the skin.
  • Radiotherapy.
Often, more than one type of treatment may be required for patients to obtain effective results.
Prevention:
Alopecia cannot be prevented; however, it can be controlled by following healthy guidelines.
Recommendations for people with alopecia areata:
  • Avoid chemical hair treatments.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet; because poor nutrition can lead to temporary hair loss.
  • Use sunscreens.
  • Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and dust, especially if you lost the hair on your eyebrows and eyelashes.
  • Wear hats or scarves to protect your scalp from the sun.
FAQ
Does hair grow back after treatment?
In most cases, hair can grow back without treatment, but new hair loss may occur. The results of the treatment depend on the immune system's response.

Is it possible that my hair would never grow back?
Yes, it’s possible. If the hair loss is widespread in many separate areas, the chances of it not growing back are greater.

Myths & Truths
Hair loss is always a sign of alopecia.
Truth: No, not every hair loss is an indication that you have alopecia. There are many causes of hair loss like: Exposure to stress and post-childbirth.

 
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Last Update : 15 December 2020 11:32 AM
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