What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a condition of the scalp that leads to damaged hair follicles. Damaged hair follicles finally leads to hair loss.

In alopecia, hair will typically fall out in a circular formation in different areas of the scalp and this leads to round bald patches. Alopecia is not contagious and other than the emotional aspect of having the condition, there are no side effects.

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder and can cause baldness. Alopecia totalis, which is the extreme form, involves the loss of all head hair. Alopecia universalis involves the loss of all hair from the head and the body.

What Are The Causes of Alopecia?

Researchers don’t know what triggers the immune system to attack hair follicles, so the exact cause of this condition is still unknown. Although the immune system is supposed to attack foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses, in the case of alopecia, it mistakes the hair follicles as foreign bodies and starts to destroy them.

What Are The Symptoms of Alopecia?

The obvious symptom of alopecia is hair loss. Generally, hair will fall out in round patches, leaving completely smooth circular bald patches on the scalp. Any of the following symptoms can also occur:

  • Hair becomes thinner, but does not fall out entirely
  • Hair breaks off in round patches leaving behind short stubby hair
  • Patients may experience complete and total hair loss (alopecia totalis) including body hair

The symptoms of alopecia occur in an irregular pattern or timeline. A patient may experience a hair loss in one area of the scalp, which will then regrow. And another patch of hair may fall out in another area. The patient may not experience any further hair loss at all.

For some patients, the hair loss can be permanent. The patients are more likely to experience this permanent loss if the following characteristics or conditions are present:

  • Have a family history of alopecia
  • Suffer from allergies on a regular basis
  • Develop alopecia at a very young age pre-puberty
  • Suffer from an autoimmune disease or condition
  • Have a bout of alopecia that lasts for a year or longer
  • Have abnormal finger and toenails (with a strange shape or color)

Alopecia seems to mainly occur in people 20 years of age or younger. Besides this generality, anyone can develop the condition of alopecia. Both men and women can be affected with this condition. Patients who suffer from a pre-existing autoimmune disorder, or problems with their thyroid have an increased risk of alopecia.

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