Have you noticed bald patches appearing on your scalp or just general thinning of the hair? You may have Alopecia Areata, also known as autoimmune hair loss, where one or more round bald patches appear suddenly, most often on the scalp.
Alopecia Areata can affect males and females at any age. It starts in childhood in about 50%, and before the age of 40 years in 80%. Lifetime risk is 1–2% and is independent of ethnicity.
What causes alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is classified as an autoimmune disorder. It is characterised by immune cells flooding the area around the hair follicles. These immune cells then attack the hair and don’t allow the hair to grow. The exact mechanism is not yet understood.
The onset or recurrence of hair loss is sometimes triggered by:
• Viral infection
• Hormonal change
• Emotional/physical stressors
Alopecia areata can also be associated with nail changes such as pitting or ridging. Alopecia areata can be associated with other conditions such as eczema, urticaria (hives) and autoimmune thyroid issues.
Alopecia areata is clinically diagnosed by a qualified dermatologist.
The doctor may also assess the area by using a dermatoscope, if needed a biopsy may be taken to diagnose or confirm the condition.
So what can you do for your Alopecia Areata?
There is not yet any reliable cure for Alopecia Areata and other forms of autoimmune hair loss, because spontaneous regrowth can occur.
Several topical treatments such as potent steroids used for Alopecia Areata are reported to result in temporary improvement in some people.
Another common treatment method is Intralesional injections – corticosteroid injections into patchy hair loss in the scalp, beard or eyebrows. We normally see patients every 6-8 weeks for follow up injections. Injections are easily tolerated by patients and takes no longer than a few minutes!
Oral medications may also be used but again it isn’t a cure, and ongoing treatment is key with this condition.