Alopecia Areata is a term that is used to describe centralized hair loss, which is usually characterized by patches of baldness along the scalp. However, it can also affect the hair on the rest of your body. Read on to learn more about diagnosing and treating this unpredictable condition.
What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata is a fairly common condition, which involves hair loss on several different levels. The most common presentation of this ailment is on your scalp, resulting in small patches of missing hair. The onset of this loss is sudden and usually only in a small area. Without treatment, you will probably grow your hair back in a year or less, but long-term hair loss is a risk.
At this time, scientists have been unable to pinpoint a specific cause to Alopecia Areata. However, studies suggest that the cause could be an autoimmune reaction or a genetic mutation. If your hair loss is due to an autoimmune reaction, that simply means that your immune system is not working the way it should, and it is attacking your body’s normal functions. As a genetic condition, you can normally judge your probability by whether or not someone else in your family has experienced Alopecia Areata already. Other conditions that put you at risk include:
- Hay fever
- Thyroid disease
- Pernicious anemia
- Down syndrome
If you find out that you are at risk for Alopecia Areata, you will probably have symptoms present themselves by the time you reach 20 years old. However, the hair usually regrows within 12 months after it occurs, when you are this young. As you age, you may not be as lucky.
How to Diagnose Alopecia Areata
First of all, you should not self-diagnose Alopecia Areata. If you notice any of the symptoms, you should contact your physician to let them know about your concerns. Some common symptoms and signs of imminent hair loss include:
- Bald patches on your scalp
- Mild itching/tingling/burning sensation on the balding or almost-balding area
- Unusual grooves and dents in the surface of your fingernails
- Bald patches in multiple locations on the body, which includes eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, armpit hair, and pubic hair
When you visit your doctor, and inform him of your symptoms, he should be able to determine whether you have Alopecia Areata or another condition. If he needs to physically examine you further, you can expect him to gently pull on hair around the bald patch to test the strength and resistance. If these hairs provide no or little resistance, it could be a sign that Alopecia Areata is worsening and spreading.
The final way that your doctor will probably diagnose you with Alopecia Areata is through a biopsy of your scalp. A biopsy requires the doctor to carefully remove a small area of skin from the empty patch, which will need to be processed by a medical laboratory.
Treatment Options for Alopecia Areata
In spite of inability to change the condition, your doctor will have many treatment options available to you. However, the severity and location of your hair loss will be the determining factor in which methods are the most beneficial for you. Discuss one of the treatment options below with your doctor, to determine the best course of action to heal your scalp.
Depending on the state of your Alopecia Areata, your doctor may prescribe a cream to suppress your body’s immune reaction. However, you can also have a cortisone solution injected into the affected areas by your doctor, depending on his course of action.
Immunotherapy is simply a way to describe a remedy that stimulates your body’s immune system to work towards healing, rather than against itself. In this case, many doctors will suggest using diphenylcyclopropenone or squaric acid dibutyl ester, which helps to neutralize the cells that have causes the hair loss.
Rogaine is a well-known hair product that helps to increase the growth of hair on balding men and women. This product doesn’t require a prescription, and you can pick it up at most major retailer location. The idea is that the formula will help to increase hair growth on the patch that is presently missing hair, stimulating growth again.
Other topical products that can help with hair regrowth include Drithocreme, Dritho-Scalp, and Micanol. These products deal with typical hair loss, but are not specific to the treatment of Alopecia Areata.
Phototherapy is a method of exposing the hairless patch on your scalp to ultraviolet lights, which is meant to help stimulate the hair follicles.
Covering the Affected Area
If you prefer to wait out the hair loss until the hair begins to grow back naturally, you can choose to purchase a hairpiece, wig, or even a hat. Essentially, you will just be modifying your appearance in effort to make yourself more confidant and comfortable.
Curing Alopecia Areata
Once you have Alopecia Areata, it is non-curable. Since genetics or unpredictable illnesses are two common causes, there aren’t any options right now to eliminate the condition entirely. Due to the lack of cure, you are very likely to have the problem recur at some point in your life, even with treatment.
How to Prevent Alopecia Areata
The unfortunate thing about Alopecia Areata is that there is no way to prevent it. While there are many indicators to help determine your chances of enduring this condition, there is no way to change your susceptibility.
Alopecia Areata Review Conclusion
If you are concerned that Alopecia Areata may be a condition that is affecting you right now, there are a few signs that you should contact your physician. You can look out for the classic symptoms, but you should let your doctor know if your hair stylist notices obvious thinning, or you see a random bald spot on your scalp one day.
In the majority of cases, the hair you’ve lost will grow back within 12 months, even if you don’t pursue treatment. However, you may be at risk for being one of the patients that experiences a longer amount of time without hair regrowth. Even though there is no way to stop this from happening, you can feel comforted by the fact that there are treatment options available to you.