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Alopecia areata

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is a type of alopecia that causes hair loss, this happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles (the root of the hair, where hair is born). Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. The damage to the follicle is usually not permanent. 

What causes alopecia areata?

The cause of this disease is probably an autoimmune reaction. This causes the immune system to unintentionally destroy the body's own cells.  

The cells that the immune system attacks in alopecia areata are the ones in the hair follicles. To date, experts do not know why the immune system attacks the follicles.

The presence of alopecia areata has been linked to factors: 

  • infectious 
  • endocrine 
  • genetic 

According to some studies, the presence of dental infectious foci can cause alopecia areata, with localized hair loss.

There is a high risk of developing alopecia areata in people suffering from asthma, allergic rhinitis, thyroid, Down syndrome and anemia according to medical studies.

Other causes of alopecia areata:

  • Auto-immune mechanism, as there is an accumulation of CD8 T lymphocytes around the hair follicle, which causes paralysis in hair development and subsequent hair loss.
  • Psychic origin such as anxiety or stress.

Who can be affected by alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is most common in people under 20 years of age (age at which 60% of cases occur), but children and adults of any age could be affected. Women and men are equally affected.

It can affect both sexes, it is more frequent in children and adolescents, however, it can appear at any age.

Approximately 1 to 2% of people develop this disease at some point in their lives. 

What are the symptoms of alopecia areata?

The symptoms caused by alopecia areata are: 

  • Hair loss in patches or rounded strands (related to stressful situations) hair loss can occur on the scalp or other areas of the body including the beard or eyebrows.
  • The areas are round and small sized areas of the scalp or beard.
  • In alopecia areata the affected skin area looks normal, there is no inflammation, redness, scaling or other abnormalities, which differentiates it from other alopecias.
  • The patches caused by hair loss usually have a diameter between 2 and 5 cm.

The hair can grow back in a few months being the same color and texture as the rest of the hair. 

Treatment for alopecia areata

There is a 10% of cases in which the hair does not grow back, these are exceptional cases and in a great minority. Alopecia areata that have a very small size less than 5 cm in most cases is reversible. 

When a patient suffers from alopecia areata has an emotional impact on him, this is due to its unsightly effect. 

For this reason, it must be treated as early and quickly as possible, preventing it from evolving into larger round bald areas.

The following drugs are available to treat alopecia: 

  • Topical glucocorticoids
  • Systemic Glucocorticoids
  • Difenciprone
  • Minoxidil
  • Zinc

Hair treatments that help reverse alopecia areata:

Treatments must be individualized for each patient.

The hair follicles are not destroyed with this disease, so the hair usually grows back. 

In Freitas Clinic we are specialists in types of alopecia and treatments, if you have visible symptoms of alopecia you can arrange a free consultation for a hair diagnosis, make an appointment.

Baldness alopecia