Alopecia Areata

(courtesy of the NAAF website)
Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Alopecia areata affects approximately two percent of the population overall, including more than 5 million people in the United States alone. This common skin disease is highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person.


Some quick Alopecia Areata facts: 

Alopecia areata (AA) is a condition, in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body, usually from the scalp. Because it causes bald spots on the scalp, especially in the first stages, it is sometimes called spot baldness.

• In 1%–2% of cases, the condition can spread to the entire scalp (Alopecia totalis) or to the entire epidermis (Alopecia universalis). Conditions resembling AA, and having a similar cause, occur also in other species.

• The condition affects 0.1%–0.2% of humans, occurring in both males and females. Alopecia areata occurs in people who are apparently healthy and have no skin disorder. Initial presentation most commonly occurs in the late teenage years, early childhood, or young adulthood, but can happen with people of all ages.

• There is no scientifically proven cause or cure for AA.

• First symptoms are small, soft, bald patches that can take just about any shape but are most usually round. It most often affects the scalp and beard but may occur on any hair-bearing part of the body.

• There may be different skin areas with hair loss and regrowth in the same body at the same time. It may also go into remission for a time, or permanently.

• The area of hair loss may tingle or be very slightly painful. The hair tends to fall out over a short period of time, with the loss commonly occurring more on one side of the scalp than the other.

• Alopecia areata is non-communicable, or not contagious. It occurs more frequently in people who have affected family members, suggesting that heredity may be a factor in 5% of cases.

• In cases where there is severe hair loss, there has been limited success treating alopecia areata with clobetasol or fluocinonide, steroid injections, or cream. Steroid injections are commonly used in sites where there are small areas of hair loss on the head or especially where eyebrow hair has been lost.

• Effects of alopecia areata are mainly psychological (loss of self image due to hair loss).
However, patients also tend to have a slightly higher incidence of [asthma], allergy, allergies, atopic dermal ailments, and even hypothyroidism.

• Alopecia can certainly be the cause of psychological stress. Because hair loss can lead to
significant appearance changes, individuals may experience social phobia, anxiety, and
depression.

The New England Journal of Medicine, April 2012 issue, has a very thorough article on the Medical Progress of Alopecia Areata. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Here are links to some of the amazing organisations that support us Alopecians:

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF):
www.naaf.org

The Children's Alopecia Project (CAP):
www.childrensalopeciaproject.org

The Australian Alopecia Areata Foundation:
http://www.aaaf.org.au

Alopecia UK:
http://www.alopeciaonline.org.uk/

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