Alopecia areata is the third most significant form of hair loss after androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium. It is an autoimmune disease wherein a person’s own immune system damages the hair follicles on the scalp or any body part. Research shows that certain type of lymphocytes plays a chief role in the hair loss. They attack the follicular hair system fallaciously thinking it is a threat to the body. It is similar to rheumatoid arthritis where the person’s immunity system accidentally attacks its own body tissues that lead to painful swelling ultimately resulting in bone abrasion and joint distortion.
In Latin, alopecia means “baldness” and areata means “in patches.” This is the classic explanation of the disease that causes hair loss in patches on the scalp or other body parts. The severity of alopecia areata differs from individual to individual. Some people lose coin-shaped patches of hair and some experience sizeable or even complete hair loss.
Let’s take a look at the common alopecia areata symptoms:
- Hair Loss
The most typical sign of alopecia areata is hair loss. Besides scalp, patients can also lose hair from body sites such as eyebrows, eyelashes or beard. People who develop alopecia areata at an early age might experience severe hair loss. The progression of the disease is unforeseeable. For 80% of patients, hair grows back immediately in less than one year, but for some, relapses can happen at any time.
There are two types of alopecia areata namely – alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. In alopecia totalis, hair loss occurs on the whole scalp. On the other hand, in alopecia universalis, there is total hair loss across the entire body including the scalp, legs, arms, etc.
- Nail Changes
Some patients suffering from alopecia areata may encounter nail depressions in toenails and fingernails, rough nails, and lastly vertical lines that start from the top of the nail to the base.
Some reports state that people suffering from alopecia areata may show symptoms of depression and anxiety. These mental disorders may progress before or after the outbreak of alopecia areata, but in most cases, they are visible at the outset of the symptoms.
Few other symptoms of alopecia areata are visible bald patches, and it is seen after any major stress issue or acute health history.
Treating Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata has no cure as of now. However, there are some treatments devised by a specialist to help regrowth of hair. Some common alopecia areata treatment involves using anti-inflammatory drugs containing amino acid supplement such as L-tyrosine or corticosteroids that can help control the immunity system. These can be administered through topical ointments, injections or orally. Alternative medications such as Anthralin, Minoxidil, DPCP, and SADBE can be prescribed to promote hair. These medications can help the hair regrow, but cannot prevent hair loss and formation of bald patches.
Therapies such as Psoralen Ultra Violet Light can be given to treat severe alopecia areata. In this therapy, the skin is exposed to UVA light to promote hair growth. Contact immunotherapy is also used to cover the scalp in liquid once in a week to treat alopecia areata.
Some effective natural treatments for alopecia areata include zinc and probiotic supplements, ginseng, rosemary and essential oils, and quercetin. People can also go for non-surgical hair camouflage. If you are distressed because of alopecia areata, you must reduce stress and meditate on a regular basis and include a nutritional diet and physical activity in your life.