What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin condition characterized by patches of hair loss. Hair may fall out on the scalp and other body parts. It occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles causing hair loss. Sometimes hair grows back only to fall out again, and in other cases, hair loss lasts for many years. People of any age, gender and ethnicity can develop alopecia areata.
Hair loss is the primary symptom of alopecia, but where on the body and for how long often depends on the type of alopecia.
Alopecia areata (patchy) – Round or oval bald spots on the scalp or other body parts
Alopecia totalis – Total hair loss on the scalp
Alopecia universalis – Total hair loss on the face, scalp and entire body including the pubic area
Diffuse alopecia areata – Sudden and unexpected hair thinning on the scalp
Ophiasis alopecia – Hair loss along the sides and lower back of the scalp
There is no cure for alopecia areata. Some patients respond to treatment while others don’t respond at all. Even if a patient responds to treatment, there’s no guarantee he or she won’t suffer from hair loss again.
Treatment options include:
Steroid injections – Corticosteroids are injected into the bare skin patches using a tiny needle every four to six weeks. If successful, hair growth is visible within four weeks. Steroids work by suppressing the immune system’s attack on hair follicles.
Topical treatments – Topical medicines are applied directly to the scalp and other areas. Topical steroids may be prescribed in combination with steroid injections.
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