Alopecia areata (AA) is a non-scarring, inflammatory, hair loss disease that is seen in men, women and children. This condition is commonly manifested by patchy areas of hair loss on the scalp and other body areas. In severe cases, alopecia areata can progress to complete loss of all body hair. While not a life threatening condition, alopecia areata is nonetheless serious because of the psychologically and sociologically devastating effects the hair loss can have on the affected individual.
Alopecia or hair loss or balding is a matter of psychological concern for both males and females. Alopecia may be of scarring and non- scarring type.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a recurrent nonscarring type of hair loss that can affect any hair-bearing area. Clinically, AA can present with many different patterns. Although medically benign, AA can cause tremendous emotional and psychosocial stress in affected patients and their families.
Current evidence suggests that alopecia areata is caused by an abnormality in the immune system. This particular abnormality leads to autoimmunity. As a result, the immune system attacks particular tissues of the body. In alopecia areata, for unknown reasons, the body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation.
Thinning hair is the most obvious symptom of androgenic alopecia. In men, it begins at the crown, temples, or both. They also tend to get a “high forehead” that’s associated with a receding hairline. This is less common in women. While men can go completely bald, women don’t usually lose all the hair on the crown of the head.
First symptoms are small, soft, bald patches which can take just about any shape but are most usually round. It most often affects the scalp and beard but may occur on any hair-bearing part of the body. There may be different skin areas with hair loss and regrowth in the same body at the same time. It may also go into remission for a time, or permanently.
Successful treatment of underlying causes is most likely to restore hair growth, be it the completion of chemotherapy, effective cure of a scalp fungus, or control of a systemic disease. Two relatively new drugs–minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Proscar)–promote hair growth in a significant minority of patients, especially those with male pattern baldness and alopecia areata. While both drugs have so far proved to be quite safe when used for this purpose, minoxidil is a liquid that is applied to the scalp and finasteride is the first and only approved treatment in a pill form.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that suppress the immune system. They can be given as injections into the areas of hair loss, taken as pills, or rubbed into affected areas. Steroid injections every 3-6 weeks are given directly into hairless patches on the scalp, eyebrow, and beard areas. Hair growth usually begins approximately 4 weeks after the injection.