What Is Alopecia Areata (AA)? Symptoms, Causes And 6 Ways To Treat

Alopecia Areata is the patchy loss of hair on the scalp or body. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease and not contagious. AA is probably the third most common form of hair loss dermatologists see, after Androgenetic Alopecia and TE. It can occur at any age and most commonly children and the lifetime risk for it is nearly 2%.

The immune system makes white blood cells and antibodies to protect against foreign objects such as bacteria, viruses, and other germs. In autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part or parts of the body as foreign. In people with AA, many white blood cells gather around the affected hair follicles which are mistaken as foreign. This causes some mild inflammation which leads in some way to hairs becoming weak and falling out to cause the bald patches. Fortunately, the stem cells that continuously supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted. So the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair.

What Is Alopecia Areata (AA)? Symptoms, Causes And 6 Ways To Treat

Alopecia areata rarely causes total hair loss, however it can prevent hair from growing back. People with just one or two patches of AA often have a full and spontaneous recovery within two years whether or not they receive treatment, the new hair often initially coloured white or grey. About 30% of individuals find the condition persists and becomes more extensive. AA is unpredictable, and repeated episodes are not unusual. Some cases last many years with some regrowth in one area, while at the same time new areas appearing. One patch can be falling out while another is regrowing.

Causes

  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Family History
    If you have a close family member with the disease, your risk of developing it is slightly increased. If your family member lost his or her first patch of hair before age 30, the risk to other family members is greater. Overall, one in five people with the disease have a family member who has it as well.
  • Stress - most likely triggers a condition already present in susceptible, rather than acting as the true primary cause.

Symptoms

AA starts as a smooth bald patch that suddenly appears, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. There are usually no symptoms but some people feel a tingling sensation or very mild pain in the affected area. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. The scalp is the most commonly noticed area, but AA can form anywhere on the body: eyelashes, armpits, leg hairs, etc.

Treatments

1. Observation - The Most Common

If the patch of hair loss is small, it is reasonable to observe it and allow the hair to regrow on its own. In approximately 50% of patients, hair will regrow within a year without any treatment.

2. Corticosteroids - The Second Common

Corticosteroids are powerful antiinflammatory drugs similar to a hormone called cortisol and it suppress the immune system.

  • Injection Into The Involved Scalp Skin
    A very small needle is used to inject steroid into and around the bald areas. Initial regrowth of hair can be seen in 4-8 weeks and treatments are repeated every 4-6 weeks. Injection can avoide the more serious side effects encountered with long-term oral use, but it may transient pain, as well as temporary depressions in the skin that usually fill in by themselves.
  • Topical
    Ointments or creams containing steroids rubbed directly onto the affected area are less traumatic than injections and, therefore, are sometimes preferred for children. However, corticosteroid ointments and creams alone are less effective than injections. However patients should be aware that steroid could cause serious side effects when used for a long period of time. The main side effect is thinning of the skin. Cortisone patients with has more complete hair loss, the hair that regrows usually falls out when this treatment stops.
  • Oral
    Corticosteroids taken by mouth are a mainstay of treatment for many autoimmune diseases and may be used in extensive alopecia areata. But because of the risk of side effects of oral corticosteroids, such as hypertension, weight gain, osteoporosis, and cataracts, they are used only occasionally for alopecia areata and for short periods of time.

3. Rogaine

has been used to promote hair growth and has shown cosmetically acceptable results in 30% of cases of AA.

4. Designed To Produce A Contact Dermatitis By Anthralin

Some studies suggest using Minoxidil and Anthralin in combination may be more effective. It works for about 40% of patients and hair grows back after about 6 months of treatment. However it is unpleasant because of itches.

5. Alternative Therapie

Including Acupuncture, Aroma Therapy, Evening Primrose Oil, Zinc and Vitamin Supplement, Chinese Herb.

6. Finally, PUVA May Be Used As A Treatment When All Else Fails

In Photochemotherapy, a person is given a drug called a Psoralen, which is affected by light. The drug can be swallowed or rubbed on the skin. Once the drug is taken or applied, the area with hair loss is exposed to an ultraviolet light source. This treatment is used most commonly in severe cases of psoriasis. The initiation of hair regrowth may take 40-80 treatments and complete regrowth up to 1-2 years.