Alopecia Aearata – general outline, symptoms, causes, treatments

Alopecia Aerata

Alopecia Areata is a fairly common form of hair loss. This particular type of alopecia is usually associated with complete baldness, however that’s only the case in a very small number of sufferers. The condition is usually identified by small, rapidly forming patches of hair loss. Natural regrowth of new hair often takes place in these areas and the visible bald spots disappear in a few months. Unfortunately for many people the patches stay and also increase in size. Only a very small percentage of Alopecia Areata sufferers experience total baldness which might develop on the whole body.

Alopecia Universalis relates to total body hair loss and Alopecia Totalis stands for complete loss of hair on the scalp. Both conditions are very difficult to treat.

 

Causes

The main cause of Alopecia Aerata is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks hair follicles. The hair follicles are wrongly recognised by the immune system as a bacteria or a virus. The hair breaks and falls out as a consequence of the attack. It is not known why the immune system behaves in this particular way. It is also very difficult to diagnose the condition in the early stages as the only visible symptom is hair loss itself which indicates the developed stage of the disease.
The hair follicles do not become damaged but lie dormant and therefore many people might either experience unexpected hair growth or lasting baldness. It is not known when hair comes and goes even though many contributing factors have been thoroughly studied. It is known that illness, medication or stress can trigger the reaction but there isn’t any obvious cause.

Treatments

Alopecia in milder forms can be successfully treated. There are many treatments available but it should be emphasized that these treatments have not been medically licensed.
1. Minoxidil
This is usually 2% or 5% liquid or cream (higher percentage typically 12.5% and 15%) that is applied to the scalp. The medication is effective in helping to promote hair growth in men and women with Androgenic Alopecia. It is licensed for the treatment of genetic hair loss but not for Alopecia Aerata where its effects are not entirely clear. In the milder cases where less than 50% of hair has been lost from the scalp it is proved that Minoxidil can achieve satisfying results.
2. Steroid injections.
Can be effective in mild or moderate form of Alopecia Aerata. The injections hinder the reaction of the immune system that takes place in the hair follicles. The procedure involves injections of steroid cortisone in the bald patches. Many patients find this treatment painful as the density of injections is about 1-2 per 1cm². It might become physically unbearable for a patient with larger bald patches. The treatment is repeated every 3 to 6 weeks.
3. Topical immunotherapy.
This is the process in which a dermatologist purposefully irritates bald patches. Effects similar to allergic reaction are achieved. The dose is increased over time to heighten the irritation. The aim is to distract the destructive reaction of immune system in hair follicles and cause them to produce hair fibres again. The downsides of this treatment are similar to an allergic reaction. Eczema on the scalp, itchiness, flakiness, blistering and scaling can be experienced. In some cases the severity of side effects might result in the termination of the treatment.
Many people affected by Alopecia Aerata find the disease unpredictable – they experience spontaneous regrowth and fall of hair which has a profound impact on their quality of life. None of the currently available treatments are guaranteed to work.
Treatments are more likely to be successful in milder cases of Alopecia Areata with smaller patches of hair loss. There is no treatment that can universally produce the intended results.
In milder cases concealers like Volume Hair Plus can be used to cover bald patches. Although it is not a permanent solution it can allow people with Alopecia Aerata to minimize the effects of the condition. It’s dermatologically tested and approved by the Dutch non-profit hair loss foundation. The concealer increases hair volume by 50% and can be easily applied and washed off.
After many years of treatment some people decide to have artificial hair which can be a permanent solution to the problem.
Human hair wigs, human hair pieces, acrylic wigs and hair extension are currently very popular not only amongst people affected by hair loss. These pieces are made to the highest standard and are very hard to distinguish from genuine hair.