Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease characterised by non-scarring hair loss in single or multiple areas of the scalp, face or body.
An autoimmune disease is where your immune system attacks itself, causing multiple outcomes.
In the case of Alopecia Areata, your body attacks your hair follicles, shrinking them and causing them to stop producing hair, resulting in hair loss.
Although it is rare, in some cases, you can lose all of the hair on your head (Alopecia Areata Totalis) and even on your entire body (Alopecia Areata Universalis).
If you think you have this condition, then you should visit your GP or dermatologist in order to start treatment.
The only symptom of Alopecia Areata is hair Loss, however, the hair loss can present in various ways. Bald patches, a receding hairline, and all-over thinning hair are some of the ways that this autoimmune disease presents itself.
As the disease can affect your entire body, hair loss is likely to present all over the face and body, as well as the head.
The exact cause of this disease is still unknown. However, there are some circumstances that are believed to be causes of Alopecia Areata.
This disease is more likely to occur in people who have a family history of autoimmune diseases, like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Acute stressful episodes
- Anxiety attacks
Once you’ve discovered symptoms of Alopecia Areata, you should visit your dermatologist.
The first thing that your dermatologist will do is examine your hair loss and take a few samples of your hair, in order to examine it.
- Scalp Biopsy
In this test, the dermatologist will remove a small piece of skin on your scalp for analysis, to rule out other conditions that cause hair loss, including fungal infections like Tinea Capitis.
- Blood tests might also be done if another autoimmune condition is suspected.
Alopecia Areata can’t be cured, but it can be treated to make your hair grow back. Below are several treatments that are used regularly to treat this condition.
- CorticosteroidsThese are anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed for autoimmune diseases. You can find them in many forms like a pill, a cream or ointment to rub on the skin, or an injection directly into the affected area.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) This drug is already used to treat pattern baldness. Just apply it on your scalp daily, and you will start to get results usually after at least 12 weeks, or 1 year in some cases. This treatment is most effective when used in a treatment plan alongside other products and methods.
- Anthralin (Dritho-Scalp) A treatment that irritates the skin in order to cause hair regrowth.
- Topical immunotherapy This method is used in cases with a significant amount of hair loss. A chemical like diphencyprone will be applied to the scalp to produce an allergic reaction. The allergic reaction draws the white blood cells away from attacking your hair follicles, allowing them to recover.
- Steroid injections involve tiny needles injecting the steroid directly into the skin of the affected areas.
- Oral treatments, there are many products on the market which claim to treat Alopecia, such as cortisone tablets, or oral immunosuppressants like cyclosporine and methotrexate.
The mechanism for these drugs is simply to block the immune system’s instinct to attack your own body. You should discuss any treatments with your dermatologist thoroughly before you use any medications for this condition.
The types of medications used for autoimmune diseases have potential side effects of liver or kidney damage, and some of the medications used can increase your risk of developing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.