UNDERSTAND WHY THIS HAIR LOSS DISEASE AFFECTS HAIR FOLLICLES AND HOW TO COPE WITH ITS UNPREDICTABLE HAIR LOSS SYMPTOMS.
Q. What is alopecia?
A. Alopecia is simply the correct medical term for any type of hair loss.
Q. What is alopecia areata?
A. Alopecia areata is the most common form of an autoimmune skin disease resulting in patches of hair loss on the head or scalp. Alopecia areata usually starts with a small patch of hair loss and continues with one or more small, round patches of hair loss around the head in no predictable pattern and for no other known reason or disease.
Q. Is alopecia areata a rare disease?
A. According to current statistics on the disease, alopecia areata affects approximately 2% of the overall population, including more than 5 million people in the United States.
Q. How do you “get” alopecia areata?
A. Alopecia areata is classified as an autoimmune disease. A healthy human immune system contains an effective set of weapons against viruses, bacteria and parasites that can attack your body. But when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body itself, it is called autoimmunity and results in a disease such as alopecia areata, depending on which cells in the body are being attacked.
Q. What causes hair loss?
A. With alopecia areata, the immune system is mistakenly attacking hair follicles and telling them to stop growing.
Q. Is alopecia areata a hair disease or a skin disease?
A. Alopecia areata is considered a skin disease because it occurs on the skin of the hair, or scalp, and is usually diagnosed by a dermatologist. Experts agree that usually bald patches are not affected by rashes, hives, or itching, although exposed scalp areas do require extra care and protection from the sun.
Q. Can someone “catch” alopecia areata?
A. No. The disease is not caused by a virus or bacteria, and it cannot be spread between people.
Q. Why does the hair loss occur in random patches?
A. The telltale symptom of alopecia areata is the random patches of hair loss. The immune system is mistakenly telling only random hair follicles in random sections of the scalp to stop growing. Unaffected hair follicles will continue to grow normally as if nothing had happened.
Q. Is the hair loss condition caused by alopecia areata permanent?
A. There is no rhyme or reason to this type of autoimmunity that researchers have been able to discover so far, aside from a slight genetic component. The condition can reverse itself as unexpectedly as it started, and hair follicles will grow again as if nothing had ever happened. Sometimes the disease can progress and include more bald patches, or sometimes new patches of hair loss may form while others grow in.
Q. What are some solutions to patchy hair loss?
A. There is no way to halt the disease progression in any way or to treat the bald patches. Many doctors prescribe different treatments and medications based on an individual situation, and while some may work, others may not. Doctors agree that many times stress is a precipitating factor in the onset of hair loss, so stress-reduction techniques are usually indicated, as well.
There are many studies being done on treatment solutions, but currently, non-surgical hair replacement and hair extensions are the best ways to cover the patches in order to improve the appearance of hair and feel better about your situation. Enlist the help of a qualified, experienced non-surgical hair replacement specialist to help determine the appropriate solutions to individual hair loss patches. Visit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (www.naaf.org) for referrals to physicians experienced in treating alopecia areata, to find out about current research and treatments, and to join support and advocacy groups.