Most people know that Alopecia is a general term for hair loss, but they may be confused by Alopecia Areata, which is a common cause of loss of hair at any age.
Alopecia Areata usually causes small, coin-sized, round patches of baldness on the scalp, although hair elsewhere on the face or body can also be affected. Some people can lose larger areas including the whole scalp or even the entire body.
Unfortunately it is not possible to predict the scale of hair loss and regrowth of hair can take months or even years. Those struck by Alopecia Areata have a better prospect of regrowth if less hair is lost at the beginning. In fact most people who lose only small patches of hair can experience regrowth within a year.
The chance of a full recovery is less likely in individuals who lose more than half their hair and when hair does regrow it may be white. The majority of sufferers of Alopecia Areata report further attacks of hair loss.
Causes of Alopecia Areata
Hair is lost due to inflammation which is believed to be caused by an attack on growing hair by the body’s own immune system, which protects the body from infections and diseases. Why this can happen is not fully understood, however, the hair usually regrows.
Sufferers of Alopecia Areata have a slightly raised chance, compared to those who do not have this condition, of developing other auto-immune conditions including diabetes, thyroid disease, lupus and vitiligo.
Alopecia Areata is not catching and has no link with food or vitamin deficiencies. However, stress appears to be a trigger for the condition.
Can Alopecia Areata Run in Families?
Yes, there is a genetic predisposition to the condition and close family members may be affected.
Are there any other symptoms other than hair loss?
Yes, some sufferers report a tingling sensation in the scalp. The condition can also cause upset to the sufferer, especially if the bald area cannot be disguised by hairstyle.
If Alopecia Areata affects the eyelashes the eyes may become sore due to dust, particularly in dry and windy conditions.
How do I recognise Alopecia Areata?
The condition begins with one or more bald, smooth patches on the scalp. With a tendency to affect the pigmented hair it can leave some white hairs within the bald area in older people. In some cases hair loss is dispersed rather than restricted to definite areas. Short, tapered hairs, which are known as ‘exclamation mark hairs’ are a feature of Alopecia Areata, and may appear at the edge of the bald patch.
Regrowth often begins at the centre of the bald patch and at first the hair is fine and white. This eventually thickens and regains its colour. Some Alopecia Areata sufferers also develop small pits on their nails.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for Alopecia Areata however if the hair loss is patchy, that there will be complete regrowth within one year without treatment for 8 out of every 10 sufferers. However, there could be further recurrences of hair loss in the future.
Extensive hair loss from the start reduces the chances of regrowth. Those with more than half the hair lost at the beginning or with complete hair loss at any stage have only about a 1 in 10 chance of full recovery. Chances of regrowth are not so good in young children and those with the condition affecting the hairline at the front, back and sides.
How can Alopecia Areata be treated?
Mild early Alopecia Areata sufferers may need no treatment, as their hair is likely to grow back anyway. There is no treatment to alter the overall course of the disease, although some treatments can induce hair growth.
It is important to remember Alopecia Areata itself has no adverse effect on physical health.
Contact us for more advice
If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment for a wig-fitting, contact Nicky Oliver on 0161 410 0604, or email us on [email protected].