What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder, which results in an unpredictable hair loss.
In a majority of cases of Alopecia Areata, the hair falls out in small patches about the size of a quarter, while in some people, the condition might be extreme. Sometimes, the Alopecia Areata leads to a complete loss of hair on the scalp (Alopecia Totalis), and sometimes the hair loss is present in the entire body (Alopecia Universalis).
Why Does Alopecia Areata Occur?
Being an autoimmune disorder, alopecia areata develops when the immune system of the body mistakes its own healthy cells for foreign body and attacks the hair follicles. Hair follicles are the structures from which hair growth occurs. When attacked, these follicles become small and stop producing hair, leading to hair loss. The exact cause as to what triggers the immune system in behaving in this manner in alopecia areata is not yet known.
Is Alopecia Areata Permanent?
Alopecia areata is not a permanent condition for everyone. The hair may or may not grow back. Sometimes the treatment options also prove to be helpful in bringing back the lost hair. There is no cure for alopecia areata, though treatments are available to slow down the hair loss or to help hair grow back quickly. For most of the patients, the condition resolves without any treatment, while in some it might be permanent loss of hair.
Various steroid creams, lotions, and shampoo are prescribed as treatment of alopecia areata. Oral corticosteroids are known to induce hair growth in the affected people, but their long term use is contraindicated due to undesirable side effects.
Immunotherapy works on producing an allergic reaction in the body to grow hair back.
Various alternative therapies and home remedies propose treatment of alopecia. Though not supported by any research, these remedies prove to be beneficial and give no side effects when treating alopecia areata.
The effectiveness of the treatment also varies in different individuals.
How Serious is Alopecia Areata?
It is difficult to predict the extent of Alopecia Areata.
The hair loss occurs in scalp, face or any other part of the body. The hair in Alopecia Areata can re-grow; but can again fall out. The extent of hair loss and re-growth varies in different individuals suffering from Alopecia Areata.
Diagnosis & Prognosis of Alopecia Areata
The symptoms of alopecia are so distinctive that making a diagnosis is usually quick. The most common pattern of hair loss in alopecia areata is well-defined spots of hair loss on the scalp. If the hair loss involves the hair of the temporal and occipital region, or if there are larger areas of scalp involved for a long period of time, the prognosis is worse for patients with Alopecia Areata.
How to Cope with Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata can be emotionally very challenging. The patient suffering from Alopecia Areata may feel isolated or become depressed. There are various cosmetic options available such as wigs, hair fillers, which can help people with alopecia areata hide these hairless areas. An alopecia areata patient can seek counselling to deal with body image issue and self-confidence.
Alopecia is not a contagious disease nor is it any sickness. The important thing is, people suffering from alopecia areata should know how to deal with it emotionally. If you notice a sudden hair loss, check with your doctor, as there can be various reasons apart from alopecia areata for hair loss.