Alopecia Areata & Hair Loss: Causes, symptoms, treatment

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes hair loss in patches on the scalp and sometimes other parts of the body. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, leading to inflammation and hair loss.

Alopecia areata can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, but it is more common in people with a family history of the condition or other autoimmune diseases.

The exact cause of alopecia areata is not known, but some factors that may trigger or worsen it include stress, infections, medications, hormones, or environmental factors. There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are treatments that can help reduce the symptoms and promote hair regrowth.

Some of these treatments include corticosteroids, topical immunotherapy, minoxidil, anthralin, or light therapy. However, these treatments may have side effects or may not work for everyone.

Coping with Alopecia Areata: Navigating Emotional Challenges and Building Support Networks

If you have alopecia areata, you may experience emotional and psychological distress due to the changes in your appearance and self-esteem. You may also face social stigma or discrimination from others who do not understand your condition.

It is important to seek professional help if you feel depressed, anxious, or isolated because of your hair loss. You can also join support groups or online communities where you can share your experiences and feelings with others who have alopecia areata.

Alopecia areata is not a life-threatening condition, but it can have a significant impact on your quality of life. You can cope with it by learning more about it, finding the best treatment for you, and getting emotional support from your family, friends, or healthcare providers.

Remember that you are not alone and that you can still live a fulfilling and productive life with alopecia areata.

alopecia areata

Alopecia Areata & Hair Loss: Causes, symptoms, treatment

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches, which can be unnoticeable. These patches may connect, however, and then become noticeable. 

The condition develops when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Sudden hair loss may occur on the scalp and in some cases the eyebrows, eyelashes, and face, as well as other parts of the body. It can also develop slowly and recur after years between instances.

Bearing the Weight of Alopecia Areata: Understanding its Varied Impact and Coping Strategies

The condition can result in total hair loss, called alopecia Universalis, and it can prevent hair from growing back. 

When hair does grow back, the hair can fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies from person to person.

The condition can affect anyone regardless of age and gender, though most cases occur before the age of 30.

There’s currently no cure for alopecia areata. However, some treatments may help hair grow back more quickly and that can prevent future hair loss, as well as unique ways to cover up the hair loss. 

Resources are also available to help people cope with stress related to hair loss.

Fast facts on alopecia areata

One in five people with alopecia areata also has a family member who has experienced the condition.

Alopecia areata often develops suddenly, over just a few days.

There is little scientific evidence that alopecia areata is caused by stress.

People with alopecia areata who have only a few patches of hair loss often experience a spontaneous, full recovery, without the need for treatment.

Causes of alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition develops when the immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign substances. 

Normally, the immune system defends your body against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.

If you have alopecia areata, however, your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. 

Hair follicles are the structures from which hairs grow. The follicles become smaller and stop producing hair, leading to hair loss.

Researchers don’t know the exact cause of this condition.

However, it most often occurs in people who have a family history of other autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. This is why some scientists suspect that genetics may contribute to the development of alopecia areata.

They also believe that certain factors in the environment are needed to trigger alopecia areata in people who are genetically predisposed to it.

Symptoms of alopecia areata

alopecia areata

The main symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. Hair usually falls out in small patches on the scalp. These patches are often several centimeters or less.

Hair loss might also occur on other parts of the face, like the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard, as well as other parts of the body. Some people lose hair in a few places. Others lose it in a lot of spots.

You may first notice clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower. If the spots are on the back of your head, someone may bring it to your attention. 

However, other health conditions can also cause hair to fall out in a similar pattern. Hair loss alone isn’t used to diagnose alopecia areata.

Alopecia Beyond the Norm: Exploring Rare Cases and Unpredictable Patterns

In rare cases, some people may experience more extensive hair loss. This is usually an indication of another type of alopecia, such as:

Alopecia Totalis, which is the loss of all hair on the scalp
Alopecia universalis, which is the loss of all hair on the entire body.

Doctors might avoid using the terms “totalis” and “universalis” because some people may experience something between the two. It’s possible to lose all hair on the arms, legs, and scalp, but not on the chest, for example.

The hair loss associated with alopecia areata is unpredictable and, as far as doctors and researchers can tell, appears to be spontaneousTrusted Source. 

The hair may grow back at any time and then may fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies greatly from person to person.


There is currently no cure for alopecia areata, although there are some forms of treatment that can be suggested by doctors to help the hair re-grow more quickly.

The most common form of alopecia areata treatment is the use of corticosteroids, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. 

These are most commonly administered through local injections, topical ointment application, or orally.

Other medications that can be prescribed that either promote hair growth or affect the immune system include Minoxidil, Anthralin, SADBE, and DPCP. 

Although some of these may help with the re-growth of hair, they cannot prevent the formation of new bald patches.

The use of photochemotherapy is supported by some studies and presents a potential alternative for patients unable or unwilling to use systemic or invasive therapies.

In addition to its aesthetic aspect, hair affords a degree of protection against the elements. People with alopecia areata who miss the protective qualities of hair may wish to:

Wear sunscreen if exposed to the sun.

Wear wraparound glasses to protect the eyes from the sun and debris which the eyebrows and eyelashes would normally defend against.

Use headwear such as hats, wigs, and scarves to protect the head from the sun or keep it warm.

Use ointment inside the nose to keep membranes moist and to protect against organisms that are normally trapped by nostril hair.

Alopecia areata does not directly make people sick, nor is it contagious. It can, however, be difficult to adapt to emotionally. 

For many people, alopecia areata is a traumatic disease that warrants treatment addressing the emotional aspect of hair loss, as well as the hair loss itself.

Support groups and counseling are available for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and to discuss common psychological reactions to the condition.

Alopecia areata has been compared by some to vitiligo, an autoimmune skin disease where the body attacks melanin-producing cells, leading to white patches. 

Research suggests that these two conditions may share a similar pathogenesis, with similar types of immune cells and cytokines driving the diseases and common genetic risk factors.

As such, any new developments in the treatment or prevention of either disease may have consequences for the other.

There have been a handful of documented cases where treatment for alopecia areata using Diphencyprone (DCP), a contact sensitizer, has led to the development of vitiligo.

Preliminary research in animals has found that quercetin, a naturally occurring bioflavonoid found in fruits and vegetables, can protect against the development of alopecia areata and effectively treat existing hair loss.

Further research is needed, including human clinical trials, before quercetin can be considered a treatment for alopecia areata.

Types Alopecia areata

Several types of alopecia areata exist. Each type is characterized by the extent of hair loss and other symptoms you may be experiencing. Each type may also have Slightly different treatment and prognosis.

Alopecia areata (patchy)

The main characteristic of this type of alopecia areata is one or more coin-sized patches of hair loss on the skin or body. If this condition expands, it may become alopecia Totalis or alopecia universalis.

Alopecia totalis

Alopecia Totalis occurs when you have hair loss across the entire scalp.

Alopecia Universalis

In addition to losing hair on the scalp, people with this type of alopecia areata also lose all hair on the face — eyebrows and eyelashes. It’s also possible to lose other body hair, including chest, back, and pubic hair.

Diffuse alopecia areata

Diffuse alopecia areata may look a lot like female- or male-pattern hair loss. It results in sudden and unexpected thinning of hair all over the scalp, not in just one area or patch.

Ophiasis alopecia

Hair loss that follows a band along the sides and lower back of the scalp is called ophiasis alopecia.


Alopecia areata can’t be prevented because its cause is unknown.

This autoimmune disorder may be the result of several factors. Those include family history, other autoimmune conditions, and even other skin conditions. 

However, not everyone with any of these factors will develop a hair condition. That’s why preventing it isn’t yet possible.

Samir Sali

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