Alopecia Areata is when there is patchy hair fall on the head. The patches are dispersed and can grow in size overtime if/when the condition worsens. Whereas Alopecia Universalis is when all the hair on your head and body fall off.
AT is categorized as an auto-immune condition where the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. But unlike Cicatricial Alopecia, hair follicles are not destroyed, so there is hope for recovery and regrowth of hair. Some researchers have linked this problem to being hereditary or genetically passed onto another person.
There are two ways a person is affected by AT. First case scenario is sudden hair loss from head, eyebrows, eyelashes and rest of the body. Second case is that hair fall starts as alopecia areata and you lose hair overtime.
This disease is not restricted to old people only. Children as young as 10 years, can too be affected. This disease affected men more than women.
Symptoms vary person to person, based on what level of AT they have. The most obvious sign is the sudden hair loss all over the body. There are a few who have irritating and itch like feelings before their hair shed. And some were noticed to have no symptoms at all. Hair fall can be sudden or slow
AT starts off with hair thinning, which eventually leads to bald patches. Another sign is pitted or brittle nails. There is no physical change to your body other than the shedding. There are however, psychological after effects like depression and social anxiety because of hair loss.
The root cause of AT is still unknown. But it is related to genetics and heredity related auto-immune disease. The immune system protects us form foreign contaminants, diseases and infections. But sometimes it mistakes hair follicles to be a threat and sends anti-bodies to attack. This action is called auto-immunity.
During AT, the immune system makes messenger molecules (cytokines) that attack follicles and cause hair loss. Research showed that there are very few with some specific genetic traits who have/can have AT. Stress is also considered to be an aiding factor but there is no concrete evidence linking both situations.
The doctor will carefully examine your head and scalp. This will help them have an understanding of the type of hair loss. The patient’s medical history will be reviewed to see if the disease is genetic. In some cases, blood tests and biopsy will be ordered to help determine the cause of the problem.
To be honest, there is no permanent cure for AT, just treatments. The ones available will suppress the symptoms, not make them go away permanently. All or any treatments will be of no help in regards to hair regrowth. But methods like steroid therapy, ultraviolet therapy, immunotherapy with medications like minoxidil and supplements can help grow back hair.
Those who wish to opt for natural treatments can use essential oils. A balanced and healthy diet also helps prevent alopecia. Alopecia totalis has an erratic and unpredictable progression pattern. It is not very responsive to therapy and may relapse in some patients.
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