Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Alopecia areata causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy hair follicles. Hair loss may be acute, or it may recur.

  • Causes

    The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. It is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It most typically affects patches of the scalp. Variations of alopecia areata can cause hair loss on the entire scalp, in men's beards, or over the entire body.

  • Definition

    Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Alopecia areata causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy hair follicles. Hair loss may be acute, or it may recur.

    Hair Loss
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In most cases, the doctor will be able to make the diagnosis on exam. There are tests that can confirm alopecia areata or rule out other causes of your hair loss.

    These tests may include:

    • Blood tests
    • Dermoscopy—to examine skin lesions with a lighted magnifier to look for fungal infections
    • Gentle pulling on the hair
    • Taking samples of scalp areas with inflammation to examine under a microscope
    • Analyzing samples of hair
    • Checking for hair loss on other parts of the body
    • Fungal culture
    • Biopsy of the scalp

  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent alopecia areata since the cause is not known.

  • Risk Factors

    Alopecia areata is more common in people under 30 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of alopecia areata include:

    • Family history of baldness or hair loss
    • Predisposition to allergic reactions

    • Having another autoimmune disorder, such as
      systemic lupus erythematosus
      (SLE) or
      Hashimoto's thyroiditis
    • Stress

  • Symptoms

    Alopecia areata causes sudden, patchy hair loss. Hair loss occurs mainly on the scalp or in the beard.

  • Treatment

    Treatment may include a waiting period. During this time, you and your doctor will evaluate your hair loss for progression or remission. Spontaneous remission occurs in nearly half of cases.

    If your hair loss progresses, talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include: