Alopecia is a reversible disease; and an uncertain, unpredictable spot baldness, where hair falls out, leaving a circular smooth hairless patch, which may overlap each other. The word "alopecia" comes from Greek which means "fox disease,” as the foxes changes its fur twice a year. The word "areata" means "occurring in patches or circumscribed areas." It is an autoimmune disease where the cells attack the hair follicles.
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The immune system causes thinning of hair with or without noticeable patches of baldness. It is still not known why immune system attacks the hair follicle. In some cases, the baldness may occur all over the body – beard, underarms, hands, legs and near genital areas. The hair lost may grow back in a few months, or remain permanent.
There are two types of Alopecia:
- Alopecia Totalis: It is the loss of all hair on the scalp.
- Alopecia Universalis: It is the loss of all hair on the entire body.
Alopecia is not a life-threatening disease; but it is emotionally and physically effecting the lives of plenty. Some people have reported pain or irritation on the spot baldness area. In some cases, there may be loss of eye lashes and nose hair too – which allows the dust and foreign particle to enter inside them. A patient suffering from Alopecia has higher chances of suffering from – asthma, thyroid disease, nasal allergies. National Institute of Research (NIH) is carrying out research on Alopecia Areata to cure the disease.
The bald area should always be covered to protect it from the sun exposure, dust, and foreign matter. Always wear a cap/glares to protect the bald scalp and missing eyelashes. Keep your nose moisturized with an ointment to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Seek counselling, if you are emotionally depressed.
When you have noticed the baldness or excessive hair loss and hair thinning which implied baldness, immediately visit your doctor.
- He will examine the hair carefully under microscope.
- Doctor may perform Scalp Biopsy by removing a tiny piece of skin to understand the condition. It may be infected by fungal – tinia capitis.
- A blood test will also be done to examine for the presence of abnormal antibodies and thyroid gland conditions
Scientists don’t know the exact reason behind the sudden hair loss and patchy baldness. They believe that the genes must have predisposed the disease. Yet they have found out some reasons which may have caused this:
- The white blood cells may attack the hair follicles, which causes them to shrink, and slows down the hair production. The shrink hair usually falls down and causing temporary baldness patch.
- 10% chances are that you have inherited the attack genetically. (1 in 5 people has a family member who must have suffered from Alopecia)
- Others who don’t have inherited may have been attacked by a virus or bacteria in the persons environment – The research is still going on
- Stress aggravates the problem. Frustration and furiousness generates heat in the scalp, resulting in hair shrinkage and hair fall.
Some more causes that may result in permanent baldness :
- Having a family history
- Pitted nails – Having small dents in finger nails and toe nails.
- Suffering from an autoimmune disease – Diabetes I type, Thyroid, Arthritis
- Extensive hair loss.
- Injection of corticosteroids into the scalp or skin. Corticosteriods are hormones that promotes hair growth. They can be taken orally or the cream can be used for topical applications.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) is the only FDA drug that has been approved to treat female pattern baldness. It can be applied topically on the scalp for hair growth. The results are time-consuming; it may take up to 6 months.
- Anthralin is an ointment that helps hair grow again. It may take two months or more. The ointment is to be applied on the scalp only for some time and then rinsed.
- Always eat anti-inflammatory foods such as whole grains, fruits, garlic and onions, vegetables, extra virgin oil.
Don’t worry: The stem cells, responsible for supplying the new cells to the follicle, are not targeted; hence there are chances that the hair will grow back.