Alopecia areata is the most common cause of patchy hair loss in scalp, head and neck. It could also be seen in any other areas in the body like, beard, eyebrow, eyelashes, and pubic area. Alopecia areata is a self limiting disorder and spontaneously improves in a few months in many cases, without any treatment. There are reports of extension of alopecia areata to a large area of the body causing alopecia totalis, which is extremely rare. In some cases, patients may choose to be treated for cosmetic purposes. The available treatment options are injection of steroids or use of topical medications.
Diagnosis and treatment should be done by a physician. Steroids will help to improve this condition through modulation of local immune response. Topical steroids have been tried with less success. Minoxidil could also be used alone or in conjunction with other topical medications for more intensive disorders or to accelerate the response to treatment.
Outcome of Alopecia Areata
The progress of alopecia areata is unpredictable. Some patients lose hair in only a limited patch of the skin, while others may present with more intensive involvement. Alopecia totalis is the loss of 100% of scalp hair. Alopecia universalis is the loss of 100% of body hair. These last two conditions are extremely rare following alopecia areata. In the majority of patients, the hair will re-grow completely within 1 year without any treatment.
Being evaluated by a doctor is recommended in most cases. Diagnosis is easy and done usually through a simple physical examination. Skin biopsy and other tests are strictly required for alopecia areata with atypical presentation.
Treatment of this generally benign condition has to do mostly with patient goals and self consciousness of the disorder. Many patients can hide the patches of alopecia artistically with cosmetics or with restoring the hair to cover the bald area in scalp involvement.