Alopecia

Alopecia areata (AA) is a condition affecting humans, in which hair is lost from areas of the body, usually from the scalp. Because it causes bald spots on the scalp, especially in the first stages, it is sometimes called spot baldness. In 1%–2% of cases, the condition can spread to the entire scalp (Alopecia totalis) or to the entire epidermis (Alopecia universalis). Conditions resembling AA, and having a similar cause, occur also in other species.

Etiology

Alopecia can be nonscarring and diffuse, nonscarring and focal, or scarring and focal. Nonscarring diffuse loss: Causes include male-pattern baldness, female-pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium, primary hair shaft abnormalities, and congenital disorders.Male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is common, familial, and androgenetic. Hair loss begins at the temples and/or vertex and can spread to diffuse thinning or nearly complete loss. Female-pattern baldness is hair thinning in the frontal, parietal, and crown regions. This too is androgenetic.

Can Alopecia Areata Be Cured?

Alopecia areata cannot be cured; however, it can be treated and the hair can grow back.In many cases, alopecia areata is treated with drugs that are used for other conditions. Treatment options for alopecia areata include: Corticosteroids: Anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed for autoimmune diseases. Corticosteroids can be given as an injection into the scalp or other areas, orally (as a pill), or applied topically (rubbed into the skin) as an ointment, cream, or foam. Response to therapy may be gradual. Rogaine: This topical drug is already used as a treatment for pattern baldness. It usually takes about 12 weeks of treatment with Rogaine before hair begins to grow.

How is alopecia areata diagnosed?

The characteristic finding of alopecia areata is the exclamation point hair. These unusual hairs can be found in areas of hair loss. They are visible with a hand lens as short, broken off hairs that are narrower closer to the scalp (appearing like an exclamation point). A biopsy of the scalp is sometimes necessary for a diagnosis.

Common Reactions to Alopecia Areata:

People who have alopecia areata and their family members often experience a variety of feelings and frustrations. Reactions to the disease include the following: Alone, withdrawn, and isolated, Loss and grief, Fear that others may find out you have the diseasse, Fear that others may find out that you wear a wig, Sadness and depression, Hopelessness, Anger, Embarrassment, Guilt or self-blame that you somehow brought the disease on yourself.

Treatment of Alopecia

Some patients of alopecia areata respond well to drugs that promote hair regrowth, containing minoxidil and finasteride. Injections of steroids directly into hairless patches on the scalp and sometimes the brow and beard areas are effectively in increases the hair growth in most people.A cream or ointment containing anthralin has also been found to stimulate new hair growth in those with mild cases of alopecia areata. Anthralin which is a synthetic tar-like substance altering immune function in the affected skin makes the condition better. Cortisone pills may be prescribed in cases of substantial hair loss.