Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata – causes and treatment of the illness

Alopecia Areata is known as one of the most common forms of hair loss, and it can be caused by a lot of various factors. Most people think that Alopecia Areata means simply going bald, but in reality, this problem is different, and concerns only a small number of patients. Usually, the most characteristic symptom of such illness, are rapidly and irregularly forming patches on the head due to hair loss. In most cases, if a person loses hair it tends to grow back over time, but the bald patches on sufferers of alopecia not only stay and don’t recover, but they also increase in size. Sometimes the illness affects the entire body. Because of this reason, there are two different types of Alopecia: Alopecia totalis which is only associated with the loss of hair on the scalp, and Alopecia universalis which causes hair loss all over the body. The second condition is very difficult to treat. Another thing that both types of the illness have in common is that they usually tend to damage all of the hair follicles. Therefore when treated, the patients will eventually experience hair growth, but for some of them the patchy baldness will remain. So what are the causes of Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata is said to be an autoimmune disorder.

It means that the body immune system attacks the hair follicles as if they were bacteria or a virus. As the result of this unusual reaction, the immune system stops the hair from growing. Unfortunately, scientists have not yet found an answer to why the immune system decides to do this. The only thing we can suspect is that the reaction might be triggered by stress, various medications (side effect of them), and as a side effect of other illnesses.

Alopecia Areata can be treated by various methods.

One of them is steroid injection to the scalp. However, this method is usually only effective for moderate forms of Alopecia Areata, and has no or very little effect on those who have a developed and major stage of the illness. The steroids attempt to suppress the local immune system’s reaction, causing the hair to grow again. The whole procedure consists of several injections being made on the scalp, roughly one centimeter apart from each other. Usually, the steroid injections are performed about every four to six weeks. Unfortunately, this method is very painful, and because of this, the injections simply cannot be given to some patients. For more developed forms of Alopecia, the only treatment can be topical immunotherapy, a process which is not recommended by all dermatologists, as it does not guarantee an effect and if the process will bring out success, then it will come at a great cost.  The main aim of the therapy is to irritate the skin of the scalp, almost in the same way as an allergy. The dose is gradually increased to heighten the irritation – this may cause hair to grow again. The most problematic aspect of this therapy however, is that a body may react negatively to the treatment, and cause side effects such as itchiness or appearance of eczema. Though in a lot of cases the method brings out positive effects, so the treatment can be quickly halted. Another existing method for curing alopecia is an application of non-invasive minoxidil, which is available in liquid or cream form. Minoxidil is not designated strictly for Alopecia, but rather for genetic hair loss. However, this method is known to stimulate the follicles again, and regain hair growth. Most of all this method is pain free and relatively cheap, therefore it is highly recommended to try the creams/liquids before any other methods are applied.

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