Alopecia Areata - TOP 10 Q&A
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. It can take a variety of forms, but the two most common are androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata. Both are characterized by baldness, but the pattern of loss varies.
Here, we focus on some of the most commonly asked questions about alopecia areata.
1. What is the cause of alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is a type of autoimmune condition whereby the body’s own immune system becomes activated and causes inflammation under the skin around hair follicles. In the presence of inflammation, hair follicles don’t grow properly and many end up falling out.
If the inflammation can be stopped, hair follicles can grow back. Alopecia areata is therefore said to be one of the so called non-scarring alopecias. This simply means the potential exists for hair to come back.
2. How common is alopecia areata?
About 1.7 % of the world’s population will be affected by this condition at some point during their lifetime. Both children and adults are affected. Individuals of every ethnic background are affected.
3. What are the different types of alopecia areata?
There are many different types of alopecia areata. Most individuals lose hair in circles or patches, which is called alopecia areata. Individuals who lose hair all over the scalp, but retain hair elsewhere on the body are said to have alopecia totalis. Individuals with complete loss of hair all over the body have alopecia universalis.
There are many other unique types of hair loss. The ‘ophiasis’ form of alopecia areata specifically lose hair from the back and sides of the scalp. Men with alopecia areata barbae lose hair from the facial hair containing areas (beard, moustache).
4. Is my alopecia a sign of an underlying disease?
Most individuals with alopecia areata are very healthy. A small proportion have other autoimmune conditions as well, including skin rashes (called eczema or atopic dermatitis), autoimmune thyroid conditions (especially hypothyroidism) or autoimmune pigment loss in the skin (called vitiligo). Other autoimmune conditions are occasionally seen, but it is quite rare.
5. Does stress cause alopecia?
Stress does not directly cause alopecia areata for most, but certainly can affect the condition for a small minority of individuals. For example, some individuals have noticed a patch of hair loss after periods of extreme (high level) stress.
6. Will I pass in on to my children?
Alopecia areata develops partly from the inheritance of various genes. These genes can be passed on from one family member to the next. But the genetics of alopecia areata is not as simple as how one inherits their eye color or hair color. The chance of a parent passing on alopecia areata is quite low for most people. Most individuals with alopecia areata do not have any other family members directly affected with alopecia areata.
7. What treatments are available?
A variety of topical treatments, injection treatments and oral treatments are available. Needle mesotherapy is one of the treatments for treating alopecia areata. Mesotherapy allow introduction of various types of active substances into the scalp through micro-injections and allows for better penetration into the tissue of substances.
Steroid injections are also very common, especially for those over 10-12 years of age. Patients with greater amounts of hair loss or who do not respond to these first group of treatments may then start oral treatments.
8. Should I be doing mesotherapy treatment or not?
Mesotherapy is helpful for many patients with discrete ‘patches’ of alopecia areata. Individuals with widespread hair loss (more than 50 % of the scalp hair is lost) will find mesotherapy to be less helpful.
9. Will I need to use the treatments forever, or just short term?
This varies from patient to patient. For some individuals with alopecia areata, the treatments are short term. Once the hair grows back fully, the treatments are stopped. If hair loss occurs again, the treatments are restarted. For other individuals, treatments must be continued long term to keep the hair growing. These individuals notice hair loss anytime the treatment is stopped.
10. What supplements should I be using?
The key supplements are those that replace any deficiencies. If one is deficient in iron or vitamin D, these should be replaced. There is no great evidence for a role of other supplements at this time.
Golden Skin offers free consultation for discovering the specific cause of hair loss. Hair loss has a range of causes, which vary from patient to patient. Causes of hair loss can include nutrition, genetics, psychology and the environment. During the consultation, we will examine all these different factors.