If you have alopecia areata, it’s important to understand what it is to make informed decisions. It’s an immune system disease that causes the body’s immune response to attack hair follicles. It also produces inflammation. Hair will typically fall out in circular patches approximately the size of a quarter.
Alopecia patches can also be larger or cause complete hair loss. The disease may affect facial hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, and beards. No redness, rash or scarring is typically observed, though some people have reported itching, tingling or a burning sensation before hair falls out. There is no cure for alopecia.
One of the unique aspects of alopecia is that certain genes have been linked to its development, but there’s no way to predict who will develop the disease. Anyone can develop alopecia, even if you have no family history of the disease. However, if you have thyroid disease, psoriasis or vitiligo, you’re more likely to develop the alopecia. You’re also more likely to have allergies such as hay fever.
The first episode typically develops in the teens, 20s or 30s, though there have been cases in children younger than 10. When it appears in young children, it tends to be more aggressive. Science hasn’t determined any obvious or specific trigger. It could be anything from elevated stress levels or an illness.
Alopecia varies among people and its unpredictable. You could have periods of hair loss throughout your entire lifetime. Conversely, you may only have one episode. Some people experience complete hair regrowth while others won’t have any. You may also notice changes in your nails, with ridges or pits developing.
There’s no cure for alopecia, but there are some treatments that aid in helping hair grow back more rapidly. A dermatologist may prescribe corticosteroid injections at the site of the hair loss with tiny needles or oral immunosuppressants. Treatments don’t prevent new patches from forming, but aids in temporarily suppressing the immune response.
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