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Alopecia Areata Symptoms

Alopecia refers to partial or complete hair loss. It affects the scalp and in some cases, also the eyebrows and eyelashes. Alopecia areata in men can affect the bearded areas as well. In rare cases, loss of hair may occur in other areas of the body. In alopecia of the non-scarring type, re-growth of hair can occur as the hair follicles remain intact.
This type of alopecia is known as noncicatricial alopecia. But in scarring alopecia, the hair follicles are destroyed and hence hair loss cannot be reversed. Hair loss occurs in both men and women, but the patterns are different in each case. In male pattern baldness, the hairline recedes gradually and the triggers are usually genetic predisposition and hormonal fluctuations. The hair in the crown area starts thinning and the remaining hair may also stop growing longer. In female pattern baldness, hair loss is characterized by an overall thinning of the hair.

Alopecia areata in women occurs in a more diffused pattern and affects the scalp primarily. There may also be areas that are completely bald. In women, the frontal hairline stays intact, but the hair loss tends to be permanent. In male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia, there is gradual hair loss which affects mainly the front and sides of the scalp. Alopecia areata affects small areas of the scalp and alopecia areata symptoms test can be carried out to confirm the same. However hair loss can also affect the whole scalp and this is known as alopecia totalis. In some cases, alopecia areata signs may include mild erythema, but in most cases the areas of hair loss appear normal. At the edges of the affected areas, hairs with rough tips may be noticed. When re-growth occurs, the hair initially starts out as white, fine hair. These are then replaced by normal hair. Alopecia areata in children is quite common. Alopecia areata symptoms in children may include bald areas that develop randomly across the scalp and itching in areas where hair loss is occurring. Alopecia areata in toddlers is also known to occur, although the condition is quite rare in children below 18 months. Alopecia areata in teenagers is most common and in most cases the first patch of hair loss occurs during the teen years.

Alopecia Areata Causes

Regentic alopecia is the most common type of non-scarring alopecia which occurs in men and women. Here loss of hair is triggered by a chemical called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This type of hair loss is associated with levels of the hormone, androgen in the body and also due to ageing. The time when baldness starts occurring, the extent of baldness, progression of the condition and pattern of balding are all determined by genetic predispositions. Alopecia areata causes in women include hormonal imbalances, genetics and ageing. Hair loss in women is more common after the onset of menopause. In women, the levels of estrogen neutralize the low levels of testosterone which turn into DHT. But after menopause, there is no estrogen present to counteract the effects of DHT. Other causes of alopecia in women include certain skin disorders, intake of certain medications and autoimmune disorders. Alopecia areata causes in children are the same as that in adults. However, the alopecia areata causes in men do differ from those of women. The condition is caused due to an autoimmune response of the body where the immune system attacks the hair follicles. The hair follicles are still alive and healthy, but hair growth cannot take place as long as the immune system targets them. Besides alopecia areata, there is another type of scarring alopecia called physiologic alopecia. Non scarring alopecia may be triggered by certain therapies, radiation, infections, endocrine disorders and pituitary gland dysfunction. Scarring alopecia may occur due to trauma experienced by the hair shaft, skin tumors, and severe fungal, viral or bacterial infections.

Alopecia Areata Treatment

Alopecia areata treatment for women includes topical applications which help to slow down or stop hair loss. They also help to promote new growth of hair. These applications are available over the counter and must be applied daily to the scalp. Results may be noticed in about four months. However for the medication to be effective, it has to be used regularly and continuously. If there are interruptions in the treatment, more hair loss can occur. These applications are known to bring about varied results in different people. Alopecia areata treatment in children may include corticosteroid injections which help to encourage re-growth of hair. This treatment is usually effective in small areas of hair loss and re-growth may take place within four to six weeks. Alopecia areata prognosis tends to be poor if hair loss continues for more than a year. There are also some natural treatments that are believed to work. Alopecia areata natural remedies include application of essential oils. Different essential oils have different beneficial properties and there are many such oils which are effective in promoting hair growth. One can even combine oils such as grape seed, lavender, rosemary, cedarwood and jojoba. Regular scalp massages with these oils help to stimulate re-growth and also improve the health of the hair. Another alopecia areata home cure is onion juice which is known to bring about an improvement in a couple of months. The juice of an onion may be applied to affected areas twice a day. Ground fenugreek seeds may also be combined with water to form a paste and then applied to the scalp. Another way to treat hair loss is to apply mustard seed extract to the affected areas.

Alopecia Areata Diagnosis

Alopecia areata is usually diagnosed when the presence of exclamation point hair are detected. These are small, fine hair with dark, rough tips. Such hair is found in areas of baldness. The alopecia areata diagnostic test is done by checking for exclamation point hair with a hand lens. In some cases, a sample of the scalp may also be obtained and analyzed further in a laboratory. In alopecia areata differential diagnosis, other causes of hair are considered such as congenital hair loss syndromes, hair loss associated with high fever, severe stress and sudden starvation.
Submitted on January 16, 2014