Definition of Alopecia Areata And How Does It Affect?
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that occurs when the body’s immune system unintentionally attacks the body’s hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Typically found in quarter-sized clumps.
Alopecia areata affects nearly 7 million people in the United States and 147 million worldwide, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).
Alopecia areata can affect people of ethnicity, sex, or age. It may begin in childhood or adulthood, which also varies from person to person and cause hair loss from the scalp, face, and other body parts.
Hair loss differs from person to person; some lose it only from a few spots, while others lose a lot. Some people have hair loss episodes throughout their lives, while others only have one. Recovery is also unpredictable, with some people experiencing complete hair regrowth while others do not.
This article discusses the causes and symptoms of alopecia areata, as well as its diagnosis and possible treatments.
What Is Alopecia?
Alopecia is a medical term used to describe hair loss, regardless of the cause. Many people believe that hair loss only affects men. Still, it is estimated that more than half of all women would have noticeable hair loss during their lifetime.
How Many Types Of Alopecia Are There?
There are several types of alopecia, including:
- Androgenetic alopecia is the most common kind of hair loss, usually described as male or female-pattern baldness. It is caused by a combination of genetics and hormones.
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes patchy hair loss on the scalp and other body areas.
- Telogen effluvium Hair loss occurs when many hair follicles enter the resting phase (telogen) simultaneously, resulting in shedding and thinning of the hair. Hormonal changes, certain medications, or stress can be caused by telogen effluvium( it could be physical or emotional stress).
- Scarring alopecia hair loss is caused by scarring on the scalp, which can result from inflammation or injury.
- Anagen effluvium hair loss occurs when the hair is disrupted during the anagen (active growth) phase. It may be caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or certain medications.
- Diffuse alopecia is a treatable type of hair loss. It may be more or less intense and corresponds to a hair loss area on the scalp.
- Frontal fibrosing alopecia is the most common in women than in men. The causes of this alopecia are still largely unknown. It is believed that it may be connected to menopause. Fibrosing alopecia primarily affects the hairline at the front, moving further and further back.
As we know now that there are different types of this condition. Alopecia areata is the most common kind of hair loss.
What is the most common type of alopecia?
The most prevalent type of alopecia is androgenetic alopecia, usually referred to as male or female pattern baldness. It is caused by a combination of genetics and hormones.
It is characterized by progressive symmetrical hair thinning, most prominently at the scalp’s front, top, and sides. This type of alopecia can affect men and women and is usually inherited.
Other common types of alopecia are alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in patches (coin-sized), and telogen effluvium, a form of temporary hair loss that can be caused by stress, hormonal changes, or certain medications.
What Are The Causes Of Alopecia Areata?
Some potential causes cause alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is a genetic and autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes bald patches.
This attack leads to inflammation, which can lead to hair loss. To further investigate the causes of this condition, scientists aren’t exactly sure what “triggers” are. However, they continue to investigate ways to understand why the immune system attacks the hair follicles to develop effective treatments for alopecia areata.
- It is not contagious, and most people with the condition do not show any other symptoms or skin problems.
- It usually begins during the late teenage years, early childhood, or early adulthood, mainly if a close relative developed patches before the age of 30 years.
- Around 20 percent of people suffer from a family history of alopecia areata, making it clear that genetics play an essential role in developing this condition.
- Some health conditions also can cause, for example, Down’s Syndrome, thyroid disease, or vitiligo.
- Vitamin D deficiency may cause hair loss too.
Who Gets Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata affects people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and can affect both males and women equally. Although it can start at any age, most people experience it in their twenties, thirties, or teenagers. It tends to be more extensive and progressive in children younger than age 10.
Your risk of having the illness may be increased if you have a close relative who has it. However, many people lack a family history. Researchers have connected a number of genes to the condition, indicating that genetics may be involved in alopecia areata. Many of the genes they have discovered are essential for the immune system’s proper operation.
Alopecia areata is more typical in people with specific autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis, thyroid disease, or vitiligo other than in people with allergic problems like hay fever.
What is the typical onset age of alopecia areata?
Although it can start at any age, most people experience it throughout childhood or adolescence.
Without receiving any treatment, about half of them experience hair growth within a year. The hair may never fall out once more when it grows back.
Additionally, it can experience unpredictable hair regrowth and loss cycles for years.
Will a child develop alopecia areata if their parent does?
Let’s say a parent or close blood relative is (or was) affected by alopecia areata. A child is likelier to get this condition if such is the case. Even though the risk is higher, not all children with this risk increase will develop alopecia areata.
Symptoms That You Might Have Alopecia Are:
Hair loss is the primary and frequent symptom of alopecia. You might observe:
When alopecia areata first begins, round or oval patches of hair on the scalp suddenly fall out. However, any body part, including the beard area in men, the eyebrows, and the eyelashes, may also be affected.
The skin around the bald spots is smooth; there is no irritation or redness. But just before the hair falls out, you might experience a tingling, itchy, or burning feeling on your skin.
When a bare patch develops, it is difficult to predict what will happen next. The changes include the following:
- Your scalp or other body parts may have a few minor bald spots.
- Patches could grow larger and merge to form a bald spot.
- You lose a lot of hair quickly because hair grows back in one place but falls out in another.
- More significant hair loss in colder climates.
Hair regrows more fully by itself in people who have:
- A less severe loss of hair.
- Later onset age.
- Unchanged nails
- No history of the illness in the family.
The nails on your fingers and toes turn red, brittle, and pitted, especially those with more extensive hair loss. Some minor changes can occur to nails:
- Pinpoint dents occur
- White spots and lines appear.
- Nails become uneven or rough.
- Nails lose their shine.
- Nails become thin and split.
What Are the Diagnosis Of Alopecia Areata?
Your doctor will use the physical exam and your personal history to diagnose accurately. If your doctor suspects alopecia areata, they may recommend additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as the following.
- If the doctor suspects alopecia areata, they can quickly diagnose by examining the degree of hair loss and observing hairs from affected areas under a microscope. This can assist in identifying whether hair loss is caused by an infection.
- The pattern of hair loss caused by alopecia areata can also be seen in other medical diseases. To determine, the doctor might perform a skin biopsy or a blood test to rule out other autoimmune disorders.
- Your physician gently pulls a few dozen strands of hair to count how many fall out. This is useful in determining the stage of the shedding process.
Alopecia areata is a specific condition with clear symptoms, so diagnosis is generally fast and precise.
Treatment for Alopecia Areata Or How to Stop Alopecia Areata From Spreading?
Alopecia areata is a typically autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss and affects millions. No treatment may be needed for those with milder cases of alopecia areata, as the hair often grows back without any intervention. Treatment for this condition typically involves blocking the immune system attack or stimulating hair regrowth.
This can be effective, particularly for individuals with milder alopecia areata (less than 50% hair loss). In such cases, medical treatment may help to restore the lost hair growth and prevent future episodes.
However, treatment may be an option for those with more severe cases.
But for those who want more immediate treatment, there are also the options of oral and topical medications. Both provide a safe and reliable method for reducing hair loss and should be discussed with your healthcare provider to determine which treatment is best for you.
Your physician will consider your age and the extent of hair loss when recommending a treatment plan.
Alternatively, patients may forego treatment and opt for products that conceal hair loss, such as hairpieces or wigs.
You can rub some medications into your scalp to help stimulate hair growth. Several drugs are available, and you can obtain them both ways, over the counter (OTC) and by prescription:
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can effectively treat autoimmune diseases. They can be administered orally as pills, applied as an ointment, cream, or foam on the skin, or injected directly into the scalp or other areas.
The downside is that it may take several weeks to months before the results of corticosteroids become visible. Nevertheless, this powerful drug has proven its worth in treating many autoimmune diseases with few side effects.
This is a method of treating hair loss that involves the application of certain chemicals to the scalp. This is done to produce an allergic reaction that can help promote hair growth. Although this can be successful, it does come with the side effect of causing an itchy rash and typically requires multiple treatments to maintain the new hair growth.
This is a popular choice for treating pattern baldness, but it may not be the best choice for everyone. It typically takes several months to notice any hair growth, and the results may still be disappointing for some users. Each type of alopecia requires different treatments, so learn which alopecia are most likely to respond to minoxidil.
Phototherapy and light treatments
These are excellent options for those with more than 50% hair loss from their scalp or other body parts, as they are non-invasive and have proven effective in many cases.
This topical medication is applied to the affected area and can help stimulate hair growth.
Home Remedies Or Home Care For Alopecia Areata:
Studies that support natural remedies for alopecia are extremely limited because there are so few conventional treatments for the condition. It is crucial to managing stress levels to stop alopecia areata from spreading, as stress can contribute to hair loss.
People who are extremely worried about their hair loss can try the following:
- Choosing a hairstyle that conceals patches, such as wearing a wig, hairpiece, scarf, or cap,
- shaving the head,
- and filling in an eyebrow with beauty products or a tattoo, known as dermatography.
Some advice is massaging the scalp, or regular moisturizing of the hair can help prevent diseases such as psoriasis and alopecia areata. Moisturizing the scalp and hair can be done using coconut oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, rosemary oil, or other natural treatments such as onion juice.
Although none of these are likely harmful, research does not back up their effectiveness.
Even though there is little to no evidence to support these treatments, some people choose alternative therapies like acupuncture and aromatherapy.
Should I worry About Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata doesn’t cause physical disability but can impact your overall well-being. There are several ways to cope with the effects of this disease. It’s essential to remember that you are not alone; more than 5 million people in the United States have alopecia areata. And certain lifestyle changes can help you cope with the condition. Including:
Learn everything about the disease and talk to others affected by it. Having a support network can help you get through tough times.`
If you are experiencing emotional difficulties, see a mental health professional. People with alopecia areata may experience higher stress levels, and depression and anxiety are more common.
Stay comfortable while protecting your bare skin:
Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin people with alopecia should always protect their skin from the sun by applying sunscreen or using alternatives to protect their scalps, such as wigs, hairpieces, hats, or scarves.
If hair loss affects your eyebrows, an eyebrow pencil, microblading, and eyebrow tattoos are a few options to consider.
Which Are The Things You Should Avoid When You Have Alopecia Areata?
Here are a few things that you may want to avoid if you have alopecia areata:
- Tight hairstyles: Tight hairstyles are; ponytails or cornrows, which can put tension on the hair and may aggravate hair loss.
- Hot water: Hot water can strip the scalp of its natural oils, which can dry and damage the hair. Instead, try using lukewarm water when washing your hair.
- Harsh hair care products: Products that contain sulfates, alcohol, and other harsh chemicals can strip the hair of its natural oils and may contribute to hair loss. Instead, try using gentler, sulfate-free hair care products.
- Heat styling tools: Heat styling tools, such as curling irons and straighteners, can damage the hair and may contribute to hair loss. If you use heat styling tools, use a heat protectant spray and avoid using them on high heat settings.
- Tight headwear: Tight headwear, such as hats and helmets, can pressure the scalp and worsen hair loss. If you need to wear a hat or helmet, try to choose a loose-fitting one or take breaks from wearing it throughout the day.
- Avoid Certain Foods: When you have alopecia areata, it is crucial to avoid certain foods that can aggravate your condition. These include dairy products, sugar, refined carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fats, excessive nuts, greasy foods, carbonated drinks, caffeine, nightshades, and foods high in selenium.
It is also crucial to consult a dermatologist if you are concerned about hair loss or experiencing other symptoms, such as itching or redness on the scalp.
How to stop alopecia areata from spreading?
It is crucial to managing stress levels to stop alopecia areata from spreading, as stress can contribute to hair loss. Further, regular moisturizing of the hair can help prevent diseases such as psoriasis and alopecia areata.
Moisturizing the scalp and hair can be done using coconut oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, or other natural oils. Massaging the scalp with a massager brush helps promote blood circulation and hair regrowth, preventing further hair loss.
Finally, medications such as corticosteroids and minoxidil can help stop alopecia areata from spreading.
The Bottom line:
It is understandable while alopecia areata can be a complex condition to deal with, it is not usually a serious medical condition. It can, however, cause a lot of anxiety and sadness.
If you are struggling with the psychological effects of the disease, there are support groups out there that can help you. Additionally, if your hair does not grow back, there are many ways to cover up the hair loss and protect your scalp.
If you notice sudden hair loss, you should check with a doctor to ensure it is not something other than alopecia areata.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Alopecia areata, how long for hair take to grow back?
Hair regrowth from alopecia areata can take several months to a year, depending on the severity of the disease. In mild cases where less than half of the scalp is affected, there is an 80% chance of complete hair regrowth within one year.
But, even if the hair regrows fully after an attack of alopecia areata, it is common to have one or more repetitions of the condition throughout life.
Can anxiety cause alopecia areata?
Yes, anxiety can be a trigger for alopecia areata. People with anxiety can be more prone to developing autoimmune conditions, including alopecia areata. It is considered that the stress and anxiety associated with these conditions cause the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
Thus, managing stress and anxiety levels can help to lower the risk of developing alopecia areata.
What hairstyle is best for alopecia?
The best hairstyle for alopecia varies from person to person, depending on the severity of the alopecia and the individual’s preferences. Some general hairstyle ideas for people with alopecia include wigs, scarves, turbans, and hats.
If the alopecia is mild, People can choose more natural hairstyles, including short haircuts, buzz cuts, pixie cuts, and layered. Thinning hair can be given more volume with hair pieces and extensions.
What foods fight alopecia?
No specific diet has been shown to cure or treat alopecia. However, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of foods, as this can help support overall health and improve the health of your hair. Some foods that may be particularly beneficial for hair health include:
- Protein-rich foods: Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, so it is vital to get enough protein in your diet to support the health of your hair. Good sources of protein include meats, fish, eggs, and legumes.
- Iron-rich foods: Iron is necessary for producing hair cells, so an iron deficiency can lead to hair loss. Best sources of iron include red meat, poultry, beans, and leafy green vegetables.
- Zinc-rich foods: Zinc is necessary for healthy hair growth and repair. Best sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, and beans.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is necessary for producing collagen, which helps support hair’s structure. Best sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, and bell peppers.
How do you treat alopecia areata beard?
- Topical corticosteroids: These are applied directly to the affected area and can help stimulate hair growth.
- Injections of corticosteroids: These are injected directly into the affected area and can be effective in helping to stimulate hair growth.
- Immunotherapy: Involves applying a chemical to the affected area and exposing the skin to UV light. This can help to stimulate the immune system and promote hair growth.
- Minoxidil: This medication is applied topically to the affected area and can help stimulate hair growth.
- Anthralin: This is a topical medication that is applied to the affected area and can help to stimulate hair growth.
It is important to note that these treatments may only be effective for some and may take several months to show results. It is also important to make an appointment with a dermatologist prior to starting any treatment for alopecia areata.