Alopecia Areata and who is affected?
Alopecia means loss of hair or baldness. There are a few different ways it can affect people, but the most common is small patches of hair loss, like circles, appearing on the scalp: this is called Alopecia Areata.
There are other types, like Alopecia Totalis, where all the hair on the head is lost. Alopecia Universalis, where all the hair on the body (including the eyebrows, groin area and under the arms) disappears. However, these forms of Alopecia are very rare.
In the UK, Alopecia Areata is estimated to affect about 15 in 10,000 people. Most family doctors will have seen at least one case, and you probably know of a friend or family member who has had it.
Alopecia Areata can occur at any age but about half of cases come on in childhood and 80& cases come on before the age of 40 years. Men and women are equally affected. The condition tends to be milder if it comes on at an older age.
Apart from the patch, the scalp usually looks healthy and there is no scarring. Occasionally, there is some mild redness, mild scaling, mild burning or slightly itchy feeling on the bald patches, but usually the person doesn’t feel anything.
What does Alopecia Areata look like?
The typical pattern is for one or more bald patches to appear on the scalp. These tend to be round in shape and about the size of a large coin. They develop quite quickly. Often the person with it hasn’t noticed it at all, particularly if they have long hair which is covering the bald patch.
When a bald patch first develops, it is difficult to predict what will happen. The following are the main ways it may progress:
- Quite often the bald patch or patches regrow hair within a few months. If hair grows back, it may not have its usual colour at first and look grey or white for a while. The usual colour eventually returns after several months.
- Sometimes one or more bald patches develop a few weeks after the first one. Sometimes the first bald patch is regrowing hair whilst a new bald patch is developing. It can then appear as if small bald patches rotate around different areas of the scalp over time.
- Large bald patches develop in some people. Some people lose all their scalp hair. This is called alopecia totalis. This is very rare though.
Understandably most people with Alopecia Areata become self-conscious, anxious or distressed by the appearance of the hair loss. It can help a lot though to stay calm and stay positive because the hair regrows by itself in almost all cases.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata is called an ‘autoimmune disease’. This is one of those annoying conditions where the body’s immune system, which usually fights off germs, accidentally attacks itself.
So tiny cells in the immune system, called T cells, gather around the base of a hair follicle and try to kill it. This causes the hair to fall out. But at some point the immune attack must come to an end and the hair grows back.
Alopecia Areata can be triggered by a recent illness, like a viral infection, or by taking certain medications for other medical conditions. Some people can link the onset of their alopecia to a stressful life event, but many can’t. Sometimes it seems to run in families and it has been known to come on in twins at the same time. More often than not, no cause is found at all.
If you have alopecia Areata you also have a slightly higher-than-average chance of developing other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders, pernicious anaemia and vitiligo. Your doctor may wish to check for these if there are any signs of them along with the hair loss.
However, even if your hair grows back fully after an episode of alopecia areata, it is common to have one or more recurrences of the condition throughout your life. A few people who develop alopecia areata will progress to total scalp baldness (alopecia totalis). Even fewer people will lose all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis). Progression to these more extensive types of hair loss is more common if:
- The bald patches start in childhood.
- The initial bout of hair loss affects more than half of your scalp.
- You have atopic eczema.
- You have eyelash and/or eyebrow hair loss.
- You have a family history of alopecia areata.
- You have hair loss around the scalp margin.
- You have nail changes.
- You have another autoimmune disease.
What are our treatment options for Alopecia Areata?
Minoxidil Solution 2% (for Women) 5% (for Men)
This is rubbed into the bald patches and has been shown to promote hair regrowth in most cases. This is the same treatment that is used for the common male pattern baldness.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
PRP has emerged as a new treatment modality. It is easy to perform and shows effective results without any adverse effects in the treatment of Alopecia Areata and can be regarded as a valuable alternative for treatment of it. A recent study of 30 patients suffering from Alopecia Areata, 70% of the group recorded hair regrowth without any side effects.*
Some studies suggest that biotin or vitamin H could be useful in treating alopecia. Biotin is used to build hair, skin and nails and the study says that if combined with zinc, it can treat alopecia.
As alopecia is an auto-immune condition, some experts believe that upping your vitamin C levels could help as this helps strengthen your immune system.
The study found that people with alopecia had a lack of this vitamin C – in fact, those with the lowest levels had the worst cases of alopecia.
Regrow Hair Centre uses HR23+ as its main supplier of vitamins designed to regrow hair which include all of the vital ingredients like Biotin, Vitamin C, Saw Palmento – in fact 23 key ingredients designed to help with your hair loss.
Shampoo & Conditioner
We also use medicated Hair shampoo & conditioner which in turn is equally designed to prevent hair loss, the lotions include key ingredients (refer to Home care leaflet) that will help you regrow your hair.
Written by Khuram Abbas Raja for The Regrow Hair Centre
* International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research, Vol. 3, Issue 8