If you’ve seen a lot of extra hair on your pillow, brush, or shower drain, or you’ve noticed odd little bald spots in the mirror, you might have an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata.
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your own body. With alopecia areata, it’s the hair follicles that are attacked. This causes the hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter. The amount of hair loss is different in everyone. Some people lose it only in a few spots. Others lose a lot.
It’s rare, but you can lose all the hair on your head (alopecia areata totalis) or entire body (alopecia areata Universalis).
Each case of alopecia areata is different. Sometimes, hair grows back but falls out again later. In others, hair grows back for good.
If you think you do have alopocia areata, you may want to see a dermatologist.
Is There A Cure?
Alopecia areata can’t be cured. But it can be treated and hair can grow back. If you have it, there are several things to try:
Corticosteroids. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed for autoimmune diseases. They can be given as an injection into the scalp or other areas. They can also be given in pill form or rubbed on the skin as an ointment, cream, or foam. The downside is that it may take a long time to work.
Topical immunotherapy. This is used when there’s a lot of hair loss, or if it happens more than once. Chemicals are applied to the scalp to produce an allergic reaction. If it works, this reaction is actually what makes the hair grow back. It also causes an itchy rash and usually has to be repeated several times to keep the new hair growth.
Minoxidil (Rogaine). This treatment, which is put on the scalp, is already used for pattern baldness. It usually takes about 12 weeks before you see growth, and some users are disappointed in the results.
Other treatments for alopecia areata include medications that are sometimes used for other autoimmune disorders. These medicines have differing amounts of success in re-growing hair.
Apart from drug treatments, there are other things you can try if you have alopecia areata.
Wear wigs, hats, or scarves. They cover your hair loss and will protect your head from the sun.
Reduce stress. Personal troubles seem to trigger alopecia areata, although this has not been proven scientifically.
Alopecia areata isn’t usually a serious medical condition, but it can cause a lot of anxiety and sadness. Support groups are out there to help you deal with the psychological effects of the condition.
Remember, even if you lose all your hair, it could grow back. And if it doesn’t, there are all kinds of great options if want to cover your hair loss.
If you notice sudden hair loss, always check with a doctor. There can be a lot of other reasons for it besides alopecia areata.