Alopecia Areata

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is a medical condition in which sudden hair loss occurs. The hair can fall out on the scalp and in other areas of the body. Alopecia can cause different types of hair loss:

  • Areata – hair loss in patches
  • Totalis – complete hair loss on the scalp
  • Universalis – complete hair loss on the body

Not everyone will lose all of the hair on their body or scalp. This is uncommon and only happens about 5% of people. For some people, hair often grows back but may fall out again. In some cases, the hair loss lasts for several years. This condition is not contagious.

What causes alopecia?

This condition is an autoimmune disease and occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Your genetic makeup, along with other factors, can trigger this form of hair loss. Alopecia most often occurs in otherwise healthy people at any age.

If you have alopecia areata, you may have a higher risk for:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Eczema
  • Hay fever
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Vitiligo

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of alopecia areata often include:

  • Widespread hair loss
  • Patchy hair loss (which often begins with 1 or more coin-sized patches)
  • “Exclamation mark” hairs, which are more narrow at the bottom and often occur in or at the edges of bare spots
  • Fingernail and toenail issues, including pinpoint dents, white spots or lines, roughness, dullness, and thinning

In some cases, changes in your nails may be the first sign of the disease.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for alopecia areata, but your hair will often regrow on its own. A dermatologist can prescribe one or more of the following medicines to help you regrow your hair more quickly:

  • Minoxidil, a hair regrowth medicine
  • Corticosteroids, which suppress the immune system
  • Diphencyprone (DPCP), which prevents hair follicles from going dormant
  • Anthralin, which alters the skin’s immune function

Schedule treatments in New Hampshire or Massachusetts

If you suffer from alopecia, schedule treatments at Dermatology & Skin Health. We are located in Dover, Newington & Londonderry, NH, Bedford, NH and Peabody, MABook your appointment online or give us a call at call (603) 742-5556 (Dover & Newington), (978) 525-0100 (Peabody), (603) 965-3551 (Londonderry), or (603) 742-5556 (Bedford).

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