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Alopecia areata (AA)

Who's at risk for this hair-loss autoimmune disease and why.

Alopecia areata causes symptoms treatment

And you thought only men could lose their hair. Unfortunately women can also experience hair loss. Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in small, round patches. AA affects about one percent of the population. About 20 percent of people with AA will lose all of the hair on their scalp and one percent may also lose eyelash and eyebrow hair. Hair may fall out and grow back fully but it may fall out again. The course of the disease varies from person to person. It frequently clears up spontaneously within one year, but recurrences are common.

Alopecia causes In cases of alopecia, the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles for unknown reasons, causing hair loss. Geneitics appears to be a factor — one in five people with alopecia has a family member who has the disease. The disease typically occurs in otherwise healthy people who have a higher-than-average risk of atopic eczema and other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease.

Alopecia symptoms

Alopecia is usually recognized by hair loss occurring in one or more small round patches on the scalp. Eyebrows and eyelashes may also be affected. Sufferers usually experience minor discomfort or itching before a bald patch develops. In rare cases, nails may develop tiny dents or become distorted.

Alopecia diagnosis/tests If you suspect you have alopecia, your physician may examine your scalp or refer you to a dermatologist who may be able to diagnose you with just an examination. Sometimes a scalp biopsy is done to help confirm the diagnosis.

Alopecia treatment There is no cure for alopecia. While medications, such as corticosteroids and topical solutions, may promote hair growth, new bald patches may continue to appear. Only the body itself can turn off the condition.

Alopecia prevention Alopecia areata cannot be prevented.

More info from Chatelaine
Hair loss help

Outside resources
American Academy of Dermatology