Causes, symptoms and treatment of alopecia areata
Hair loss is a very common problem. Women these days are especially affected by this condition and complain about the condition and health of their hair. Sometimes the cause of hair thinning is not serious – problems with the skin on your scalp may appear due to improper diet and lack of vitamins or nutrients. Wrong hair care and treatments applied can also be a culprit, along with stress, smoking or excessive alcohol use. Nevertheless, there are some serious diseases, like alopecia areata which may be the cause of hair loss. So how can we recognise and treat alopecia areata? Feel free to read our article to find out.
What is alopecia areata and what are its causes?
To put it simply, alopecia areata is a serious hair-related illness caused by inflammation of the scalp which as a result damages the hair follicles. The most characteristic element of the illness are circular bald spots on the head. Such harmful symptoms can be observed not just on your head, but on other parts of your body as well. The illness is as prevalent in men as in women. In most cases the sufferers are young, between 20 and 40 years old, but the condition can manifest as early as childhood. Of course – the earlier the symptoms are identified, the less difficult the disease will be to treat. Unfortunately, alopecia areata treatment is not generally easy, but if you utilise some solutions and apply specialised medicine, it may be manageable.
What are the causes of alopecia areata? The disease is not yet fully researched, thus the complete list of causes is not known. Nonetheless, there are some solid speculations out there. Most doctors think alopecia comes from a defect in your immune system, which starts to attack the hair follicles. This results in inflammation and eventual hair loss. Therefore alopecia areata may only be a part of a large scope of other diseases like vitiligo, skin inflammation, thyroid inflammation etc. In addition, genetics can also be one of the main causes of the illness. About 20% of alopecia areata victims had someone previously in the family who suffered from it too, though it does not mean that each person who has an alopecia areata trail in their family will develop it too. There are countless other causes for the disease which can be named e.g. wrong diet, fast/stressful lifestyle and other psychological disorders, among many others. Of course those factors do not directly cause the alopecia areata on their own, but they can contribute heavily to the whole hair loss process. Alopecia areata treatment caused by stress is fairly easy to eliminate – simply restrict/try to eliminate stressful situations in your life. All alopecia areata treatments demand attention and are researched individually. In the end, it is worth noting that hormonal problems can be a primary cause of alopecia too. Hormonal issues and a lack of proper nutrients (for example zinc) can easily trigger a hair loss process.
Symptoms of alopecia areata
As it is with all illnesses, alopecia areata can be recognised by its characteristic symptoms. The most common symptom is appearance of inflamed balding areas on our head, roughly the size of a coin. They appear in larger numbers and in unpredictable, irregular places as the time passes. They can reach 5-10 centimeters in diameter. In addition, the so called ‘exclamation’ hair can be observed around them – these are hair strands that are very short, thicker and darker than others around them. The part of skin on which the inflammation occurs is not irritated and does not itch. However, the skin loses a lot of its natural elasticity and colour. The symptoms also include falling out eyebrow strands as well as eyelashes, or even randomly falling out hair on other parts of the body. Furthermore, you will definitely notice that the condition of your nails has increasingly worsened. Of course, all those symptoms do not necessarily have to appear simultaneously. Nevertheless, the faster a proper alopecia areata treatment is implemented, the better. In many cases, new hair will start to grow after 3 to 6 weeks. Darker hair will appear bright or grey at the start, but that’s nothing to worry about – they will regain their natural colour soon enough.
Alopecia areata treatment
As we have mentioned earlier, alopecia areata treatment is not an easy process, but it can be done. There are some solutions to this problem and below you will find the most effective and the most popular alternatives.
Minoxidil medicine – this is the one of the most often used solutions for treatment of alopecia areata. The scalp is treated with minoxidil rubs which are specifically created to quicken hair growth. The solution should be applied twice a day. Of course, this procedure may result in adverse effects, like skin decolourisation or dandruff.
Immunosuppressants – this alopecia areata treamtnet is straightforward. You have to take medicine with cyclosporine or steroids (the latter can be also used directly on the affected area, as they also come in form of oinments).
Cryotherapy – a treatment that uses sub-zero temperatures. It can be an effective but risky solution, as it can damage your hair follicles.
Localised immunotherapy – one of the more effective forms of alopecia areata treatments, which relies on an allergens applied directly on the inflamed area.
Photochemotherapy – the basis for this therapy is a medicine called psoralen, which causes an allergic reaction when faced with UV light. The victims of alopecia are exposed to this light which eventually cures them. The therapy is repeated three times a week and can be done as many times as needed – depending on the alopecia’s stage and seriousness, as well as overall health condition of the patient.
Ruxolitinibe treatment – new and experimental method of alopecia treatment, which is not yet fully researched (nonetheless, the ongoing treatments prove to be effective). The medicine is usually used for patients with bone marrow diseases, but doctors and researchers recently decided to try it on hair loss victims, and it worked!