Archive for April, 2009
Alopecia is the medical term for baldness; there are various types of alopecia, including alopecia areata, alopecia areata totalis or entire body alopecia areata universalis.
Alopecia areata is a condition that causes a person’s hair to fall out in spots or entirely. It is an autoimmune disease. A person’s immune system attacks their body, “hair follicles. “ When this happens, ones hair begins to fall out, mostly in patches the size of a quarter to a half dollar coin. The amount of hair loss varies person to person; in some cases, it is only in a few spots. In others, the hair loss can be greater.
Alopecia areata is unpredictable. In some people, hair grows back but falls out again later. In others, hair grows back and remains. Each case is unique. Even if someone loses all of his or her hair, there is a chance that it will grow back.
Anyone can develop alopecia areata; however, your chances of having alopecia areata are slightly greater if you have a relative with the disease. In addition, alopecia areata occurs more often among people who have family members with autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease.
Alopecia areata cannot be cured; however, it can be treated and the hair can grow back.
In many cases, alopecia areata is treated with drugs that are used for other conditions. Treatment options for alopecia areata include:
* Corticosteroids: Anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed for autoimmune diseases. Corticosteroids can be given as an injection into the scalp or other areas, orally (as a pill), or applied topically (rubbed into the skin) as an ointment, cream, or foam. Response to therapy may be gradual.
* Rogaine: This topical drug is already used as a treatment for pattern baldness. It usually takes about 12 weeks of treatment with Rogaine before hair begins to grow.
* Reducing stress. Many people with new onset alopecia areata have had recent stresses in life, such as work, family, deaths, surgeries, accidents, etc. However, this has not been proven scientifically as a cause of alopecia areata.
While the disease is not medically serious, it can impact people psychologically. Support groups are available to help people with alopecia areata deal with the psychological effects of the condition. Further information may be found at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (www.naaf.org).