Alopecia Areata

What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata is an immune system related condition that results in small round patches of hair loss that may resolve spontaneously of last for many years.   Millions of patients suffer from this condition.  On occasion Alopecia Areata may cause loss of all scalp hair (Alopecia Totalis) or all scalp and body hair (Alopecia Universalis).   Minor itching may accompany the hair loss, but generally alopecia areata does not have associated symptoms.  Nails may rarely develop tiny indentations.  Children and young adults are most frequently affected, but persons of all ages are susceptible.  Alopecia areata occurs equally in both male and females and in all ethnicities.

What causes Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles.  This leads to an immense inflammatory response that disrupts the normal hair growth cycle.  The exact triggering mechanism is unknown, but genetic predisposition plays a major role.  Persons with Alopecia Areata may have a higher risk of developing asthma, atopic dermatitis, thyroid disease and vitiligo.

What tests are done to make the diagnosis of Alopecia Areata?

Dermatologists are typically able to make the correct diagnosis by simply examining the hair.  Occasionally, a scalp biopsy is helpful in confirming the diagnosis.

What treatments are available?

Since Alopecia Areata is an auto immune disease, there are no cures for this condition.  Anti-inflammatory medicines such as corticosteroids that suppress the immune system may promote hair growth.  This medicine is much more effective if it is injected into the areas of hair loss as opposed to applied topically.  Systemic steroids are also effective, but may have significant side.  Minoxidil solution or foam is an alternative therapy that may promote hair growth in Alopecia Areata.  Many cases of Alopecia Areata resolve spontaneously.  We look forward to sharing our expertise with you.