Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss. In majority of cases hair falls out in small patches around the size of a quarter. For most people, the hair loss is nothing more than a few patches, though in some cases it can be extreme. Sometimes it can lead to complete hair loss on the scalp (alopecia totalis) or in extreme cases the entire body (alopecia universalis).
Symptoms of alopecia areata.
The main symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. Hair usually falls out in small patches on the scalp. Hair loss might also occur on other parts of the face, like eyebrows, eyelashes and beard as well as other parts of the body.
You may first notice clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower. If the spots are on the back of your head, someone may bring it to your attention. However, other health conditions can also cause hair to fall out in a similar pattern. Hair loss alone is not used to diagnose alopecia areata.
Causes of alopecia areata.
Current evidence suggests that alopecia is caused by abnormality in the immune system that damages hair follicles. This particular abnormality leads to autoimmunity, a misguided immune that tends to attack its own body. As a result the immune system attacks particular tissues of the body. In alopecia areata for unknown reasons, the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation.
Diagnosis of alopecia areata.
A doctor may be able to diagnose alopecia areata simply by looking at the extent of your hair loss and by examining a few hair samples under a microscope.
Your doctor may also perform a scalp biopsy to rule out other conditions that cause hair loss, including fungal infections like tinea capitis. During a scalp biopsy your doctor will remove a small piece of skin in your scalp for analysis.
Blood test might be done if other autoimmune conditions are suspected. The specific blood test performed depends on the particular disorder the doctor suspects. If these antibodies are found in your blood it usually means you have an autoimmune disorder.
There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are treatment that you can try that might help to slow down future hair loss or help hair grow back quickly. They most common form of treatment for alopecia areata is the use of corticosteroids, powerful antiflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. These are most commonly administered through local injections, topical ointment application or orally.
Other medications that can be prescribed that either promotes hair growth or affect the immune system include Minoxidil, Anthralin and corticosteroids you apply.