Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that results in unpredictable hair loss. Your hair growth begins at the follicles, but the immune system attacks them. This condition is not contagious and does not make a person feel sick per say. However, the inflammation can lead permanent damage to some people.
There are numerous autoimmune diseases in which the body mistakenly attacks itself. In this case, white blood cells attack hair follicle cells. As the cells shrink, it slows down the hair production process. Alopecia areata is more severe more some people than others. However, there is no particular reason as to why the immune system damages the hair follicles.
Although it is not proven, hereditary seems to be a reason for a more severe case of alopecia areata. You may be more prone to lose your hair entirely to this autoimmune disease not only if you have a family history of alopecia areata, but if you have allergies or another autoimmune disease. Developing the condition before puberty or having episodes that last longer than a year can also increase the chance of baldness. Nevertheless, it is unknown precisely what causes the body's immune system to target hair follicles in this way. In general, it is more common in people younger than 20 years of age, but kids and adults can be affected as well as men and women.
The most common symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. It usually happens in coin-sized patches on the head, but the condition can affect any hair site including the face. The loss of hair can occur suddenly within a few days or weeks. An itchy, burning sensation might be associated with the hair loss as well.
Alopecia areata is not a permanent condition. If the inflammation of your hair follicles subsides, and they are not already destroyed, your hair can grow back. People who lose just a few patches randomly often experience a full recovery just as spontaneously as it left. In other cases, alopecia areata can either become more severe or fall into a continuous pattern of hair loss and growth. You may overcome alopecia areata within a year, but most people deal with multiple episodes.
Although this autoimmune disease involves patchy hair loss, it can also affect the eyelashes, fingernails, or toenails. In fact, noticing the changes in your nails may be some of the first signs of alopecia areata. If you notice your nails becoming rougher, losing their shine, or splitting easier you might have an underlying ailment. Alopecia areata also causes white spots and lines to appear on your nails as well as pinpoint dents.
Based on the noticeable symptoms, your doctor can diagnose this condition fairly easily. After a clinical exam, your doctor might want to examine affected areas closer using a microscope. A skin biopsy is also common. To ensure you are not sick with another autoimmune disease, you may have to undergo blood testing. Since the symptoms are obvious and the diagnosis pretty straightforward, you can begin treatment right away.
There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are several treatments that can help your hair grow back quickly. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which is a drug that reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune response. Corticosteroids are the most common treatment for alopecia areata. The potent drug comes as a pill, local injection, or topical ointment. The shots are very popular. Minoxidil and Anthralin are two other medications that can help.
People have tried a range of at-home remedies for hair growth related to alopecia areata. Alternative treatments include aromatherapy, acupuncture, and Psoralen Plus Ultraviolet Light Therapy (PUVA). Also known as photochemotherapy, PUVA is a type of medicine that uses ultraviolet A (UVA) light to treat certain conditions, especially those dealing with the skin. You can always wear wigs, hats, and other more traditional coverings to manage hair loss.
Depending on the severity of alopecia, it may develop into either of these forms. Alopecia totalis is when you experience complete hair loss on the scalp. Alopecia Universalis is an extreme case of the condition, which results in complete hair loss on the entire body.
After being diagnosed with alopecia areata, you will learn more about the symptoms and treatments. Living with this autoimmune disease can be difficult. Whether you have just a few patches of hair missing or you are dealing with a complete loss, it can be hard to adjust. If you feel unattractive, make sure you confide in a close friend, relative, or counselor. There are support groups and ways to cope with the dramatic difference. Not only that, but you will have to take extra precautions to shield your skin and eyes from sun damage and exposure. Whether you decide to take prescribed medications or try holistic treatment, there are ways to manage this disease.
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