Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where
the immune system mistakenly fights the hair follicles from which hairs grow.
This usually leads to hair loss on the head and in
some cases, in other places on the body such as the pubic region, eyebrows, eyelashes
Usually the hair will fall out in a few smaller round patches. Although in some people hair loss
can be more extensive, the condition usually does not procede beyond these bare patches. It is possible
for the disease to cause a total loss of hair on the head (alopecia totalis) or complete loss of hair on the
face, head and body (alopecia universalis).
Causes of Alopecia areata
The immune system cells, also known as white blood cells fight the rapidly growing cells in hair
follicles which is where the hair is made. The hair follicles then become smaller thus slowing down any new
Due to the fact that the stem cells feeding the hair follicle with new cells are not targeted,
the follicle is usually not permanently damaged and can eventually re-grow hair normally.
Although experts are unsure as to the exact reason
why hair follicles go through these changes, it is suspected that it may be a combination of genes that can
predispose certain people to this particular disease.
Those who are predisposed to Alopecia areata may
experience hair loss via certain triggers such as viruses, environmental factors or emotion. Any of these
factors can be suspected for an attack against the hair follicles.
Those people who have an immediate family relative
with alopecia areata are also more at risk of developing the disease.
People who have a family member who have lost their
first patch of hair before they are 30 years of age have, along with other of their family members a greater
risk of developing Alopecia areata. Scientists claim that one in five people who suffer Alopecia areata have
a family member who also has the same problem.
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Alopecia areata is thought to affect approximately
4 million in the US and usually begins in childhood. These numbers include people of all ages and both sexes,
regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
Alopecia areata is in no way life threatening and
suffers are generally otherwise healthy.
Although it does not cause physical pain, the
disease can and does for many people dramatically affect their appearance causing them social and emotional
However Alopecia universalis (where a person loses
their eyelashes, eyebrows, nasal and ear hair etc) can allow the sufferer to be more susceptible to germs,
dust in the nose eyes and ears so they have to be very careful.
Although those who suffer from Alopecia areata
generally do not have other autoimmune diseases, it can often be present in people whose family members
suffer from other autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, systemic lupus, thyroid
disease, pericious aneamis, erthematosus ad Addison’s disease.
However, there is often a presence of thyroid
disease nasal allergies, asthma, atopic eczema and asthma.