What is Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, usually in small clumps. The loss is unpredictable, and while usually the clumps are individually small, together they can begin to be quite noticeable; resulting in large bald patches.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body’s immune system targets the hair follicles (where hairs grow) like it would a harmful substance invading the body.
It’s currently unknown why this happens, but it’s most common in people with a family history of alopecia areata, or other autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
The main symptom of alopecia areata is patchy hair loss. Hair tends to fall out in clumps the size of a quarter; this is usually on the scalp but can happen anywhere that there’s hair growth, such as the eyebrows or beard.
Alopecia areata diagnosis is usually quite straightforward. A doctor can usually tell by examining the physical symptoms like degree of hair loss, and affected areas. In some cases, a skin biopsy or blood test may be needed to rule out other potential autoimmune disorders.
Early Warning Signs
Excessive or sudden hair loss is the most common early sign of alopecia areata. This may be in the form of clumps of hair coming off when brushing, or noticeable patches of hair loss.
Another early sign is thinning hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes, or a receding hairline. If such hair loss is accompanied by white spots or lines on the nails, that’s another early warning sign of alopecia areata developing.
When to See a Medical Doctor
If you notice any of the above symptoms or early warning signs of alopecia areata, speak to a doctor to get a proper diagnosis, and begin treatment.
Though there is currently no cure for alopecia areata, there are still treatment options available in milder cases of it; topical agents (creams), steroid injections, and oral medications are the most common treatment methods. Consulting with a doctor can determine the best treatment option for someone.