Posted in Hair Loss

Alopecia Areata Symptoms : What are they?

Alopecia Areata Symptoms : What are they?

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    What is Alopecia Areata ?

    Alopecia areata is a health condition which causes a loss of hair in patches, usually on the scalp.

    Alopecia areata differs from baldness, which causes hair loss (only on the scalp, not body hair) for mainly hereditary reasons..

    Alopecia areata causes a loss of hair in patches, most often on the scalp. The skin of the skull retains its normal appearance, but is simply devoid of hair in places. It is also called plaque alopecia.

    About 1% of North Americans are affected by alopecia areata. In nearly half of cases, symptoms appear before the age of 20. It represents 2% of dermatology consultations in the United States There is no treatment to overcome it. Certain treatments can stimulate hair regrowth. However, in about 75% of cases, the hair reappears on its own 6 to 12 months after the hair loss. Hair can even grow back years later. However, nothing protects against a relapse, it is actually likely to happen.

    Alopecia Areata : What are the symptoms? 

    The main alopecia areata symptoms are the following: Suddenly, one or more circular or oval areas 1 cm to 4 cm in diameter become completely devoid of hair on the scalp or on body hair. These bald patches frequently and recurrently in the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes or other hairy areas of the body. 

    Occasionally, itching or a burning sensation may be felt in the affected areas, but the skin remains normal in appearance. Usually there is regrowth in 1 to 3 months, often followed by a relapse in the same place or elsewhere.

    Alopecia areata: what are the causes of this condition?

    Scientists don't know what triggers alopecia, but possible contenders include: viral infection, heredity, stress, chemical exposure.

    However, hereditary factors seem to play in 20% to 40% of people affected. The researchers speculate that the mechanism of destruction involves an autoimmune reaction, where the affected person's antibodies mistakenly attack the hair follicles.

    Alopecia areata is also associated with the presence of other autoimmune diseases, such as vitiligo, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, discoid lupus and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

    Luckily, the stem cells of the hair follicles, which allow hair to grow back, remain intact. This explains why the hairs can start to grow again, even after several years of dormancy.

    Our doctor’s opinion :

    Alopecia areata, which affects only one or two well-defined areas of the scalp, is fairly easy to diagnose by a family doctor. However, it must be ensured that this hair loss is not of infectious origin. If that’s the case, the affected area will be a little red and scaly. Your treating will immediately propose a  treatment plan for you. 

    Otherwise, in the case of a not very extensive alopecia areata, I suggest simply observing the situation without any particular medical intervention. The simple fact of knowing that after 1 year everything is back to normal is enough for most cases.

    A consultation with a dermatologist may be more useful in cases where your general physician is unsure about the diagnosis or if the disease is more extensive.

    Dr. Semra Akinturk, Dermatologist 



    Author: ClinicAdvisor® Research Team

    Medically reviewed by: Dr. Semra Akinturk

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