There are a variety of ways hair loss can develop, including Alopecia Areata which appears as clumps of hair fall out leaving round bald patches occur on the skin and scalp. It is quite rare for an individual to lose all their hair though this has happened with very severe cases. Hair loss is not restricted to the head but can occur on the body and face as well.
Alopecia Areata is caused by an autoimmune response. The body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles causing hair to fall out. Scientists do not know the cause of this misdirection of the immune system, though it is thought to be a genetic disease. Individuals that have the disease in the family are more likely to develop symptoms. Several possible triggers of this immune response include changes in a person’s environment or a virus. Individuals that do not have risk genes for this disease will not experience hair loss when exposed to the disease triggers.
While scientists believe there is a genetic disposition to developing this condition, anyone can technically develop Alopecia Areata. Symptoms typically develop during childhood or younger individuals, but it can occur at any age. Diagnosis occurs though physical examination, as well as medical history. Scalp examination and pattern of hair loss are usually enough for a diagnosis. However hair analysis under a microscope and blood tests are used to rule out other possible hair loss causes when appropriate.
The actual symptoms can vary depending on the person. Hair may fall out, but it can also grow back. This process can occur again and again. The symptoms can also change over time as the area where hair loss occurs can change locations or hair growth in specific areas may stop altogether. About 10 percent of all individuals with this hair condition will not regrow hair.
Currently there are no known cures for this condition though treatments focus on stimulating hair growth. Because the cause of the immune response is unknown it is only possible to treat the symptoms and not prevent them. Corticosteroids are used to reduce pain and swelling in the skin which can also affect the activity of the immune system. These drugs are available as lotions, creams, injections and pills. Photochemotherapy is another treatment that uses a drug called psoralen. After the drug is taken or applied to the scalp, ultraviolet light is shown on the bald areas and is thought to stimulate hair growth. There are many alternative therapies that can be used to increase hair growth but these therapies have not been fully investigated in clinical trials and their effectiveness is unknown.
This hair condition is not contagious and will not make your feel ill. Therefore it has little affect on your everyday life except for its cosmetic or beauty issues, which in turn may lead to confidence problems. You can reduce the issues with your appearance by using colored pencils, hair colored cream or crayons, and head pieces.
In order to better understand Alopecia Areata, its cause and effective treatments, scientists are investigating genetic links, hair follicle development in skin, stem cells in skin, the effect of different medications and different immune treatments. One such organization is the Alopecia Areata Foundation which provides information and access to support groups to help with this condition.