Alopecia Areata

by Sarah Allyn

Patient

Peter, 54, has experienced patches of hair loss on his scalp, He has not been under any new stress, nor did his maternal grandfather exhibit any hair loss. He has Alopecia Areata.

Etiology

Alopecia Areata is a disorder that causes the hair to fall out in round patches. It can occur in any area with hair. This autoimmune disease causes the persons own white blood cells (T lymphocytes) to attack the lower portion of the hair follicle causing the clumps of hair to fall out. The disease has risk factors but is relatively random. It is not contagious or nerve related and cause is unknown.

Risk Factors

More common if:


  • a relative has it
  • patient is a child or adolescent
  • a relative has another autoimmune disorder (diabetes, lupus, thyroid disease, etc.)

Symptoms, Signs, and Characteristics

Symptoms can occur whenever and patients often experience peaks and troughs in the hair loss.

The symptoms include:

  • hair loss
  • burning sensation where hair loss occured
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Treatment

For Alopecia Areata, hair regrowth can occur at any stage.

Here are some for mild hair loss:

  • Intralesional Corticosteroid Injections. A doctor or physician can administer these injection in or around the sites of hair loss. These are designed to regrow hair but cannot hinder any further hair loss.
  • Five Percent Topical Minoxidil Solution is available for scalp and eyebrow regrowth. It isn't effective in those with 100% scalp hair loss. It is safe and self-administered.
  • Anthralin Cream is put on the patches for a short time daily. Regrowth of hair can be seen in 8 to 12 weeks. It is slightly harmful to the eyes and can result in skin irritation and skin staining.
Here are some for extensive hair loss:

  • Corticosteroid Pills can be given but they are much stronger than injections. They can result in health risks from prolonged use. Regrown hair can fall out if the pills are stopped.
  • Topical Immunotherapy is where a physician sparks a rash akin to poison oak on the affected area. About 40% of patients who use this experience regrowth in six months.
  • Wigs are also an option for extreme hair loss. Silicon suction wigs are available for complete hair loss.

Prognosis

Alopecia Areata is incurable and is not fatal. In fact, in more than 90% of cases, hair grows back in affected areas. Relapse of hair loss is fairly common. In about 7% of cases, hair loss is extreme and treatments are not effective. The only lasting effect of this disorder is hair loss.

Impact on Lifestyle

People living with Alopecia Areata have a relatively normal lifestyle. It is not fatal, contagious, and doesn't have any symptoms that affects how the body works. The only impact on life is the psychological effects. In children, losing hair and being bald is particularly scarring because its not a typical appearance. Many people with the disorder are a part of support group or talk to a counselor to help them through it. Other patients work around the effects on their looks by using wigs and makeup. And finally to reduce discomfort in the area, sunscreen or a hat can be used.

Extra Facts

  • There are two types; mild or Alopecia Areata and extreme or Alopecia Areata Totalis or Universalis
  • Scientists are studying stem cells in the skin to learn more about Alopecia Areata
  • One in five people have it if someone else in their family has it
  • It impacts 2% of the world population and about 4.5 million Americans

Works Cited


"Alopecia Areata - Prognosis." SparkPeople. Havard Health Publications, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/health_a-z_detail.asp?AZ=20&Page=8>

"Alopecia Areata." Alopecia Areata. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/alopecia-areata>

"Alopecia Areata Causes, Treatments, Symptoms." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/alopecia-areata>

"Alopecia Areata Fact Sheet." Alopecia World. N.p., 05 July 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2016. <http://www.alopeciaworld.com/profiles/blogs/alopecia-areata-fact-sheet>

"Alopecia Areata." Fast Facts About. N.p., Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Alopecia_Areata/alopecia_areata_ff.asp>

Bolduc, Chantal, Dr. "Alopecia Areata." : Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology. N.p., 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1069931-overview>

Rivers, Autumn, and Jacquelyn Cafasso. "Alopecia Areata." Healthline. N.p., 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://www.healthline.com/health/alopecia-areata#Overview1>

"Treatments for Alopecia Areata." Treatments for Alopecia Areata. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <https://www.naaf.org/alopecia-areata/alopecia-areata-treatments>