If you read our blogs last month, you would know that August was National Hair Loss Awareness Month and we tried to focus our blogs on providing important information on female hair loss as a whole.  September is also an important month, as it is Alopecia Areata Awareness month.  While considered a rare type of hair loss, Alopecia Areata still affects almost 7 million people in the US.  Alopecia Areata is actually an autoimmune disease, meaning the body causes inflammation around the hair follicle preventing it from growing. Most often it presents as a coin shaped lesion or discrete patches of hair loss with sharp borders. Less commonly it can be more diffuse.

Types of Alopecia Areata

While we often speak of Alopecia Areata in general terms, there are actually a few different types of it.  The most well known is Alopecia Areata, which presents as coin shaped lesions on the scalp, although the loss can occur on other areas of the body.  Alopecia Totalis presents as total loss of the hair on the scalp.  Alopecia Universalis presents as total loss of hair on the scalp, face, and body.  Less common forms of Alopecia Areata are Diffuse Alopecia Areata, which is very sudden loss and thinning across the entire scalp, and Ophiasis Alopecia, which has unique pattern of loss on the sides and lower back of the scalp[i].

Why Does it Occur?

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system is attacking the body. Much is still unknown about Alopecia Areata and why some people get it and what causes the flareups to occur.  While stress was often thought to be a trigger for flareups, there is little scientific evidence to prove this.

Can we Cure Alopecia Areata?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for any type of Alopecia Areata.  However, through treatment we try to stop the progression of the hair loss, and sometimes complete regrowth is possible.  It is important to understand that even if the hair completely regrows, a flare up can re-occur at any time, which will cause the hair loss to occur again.

Treatments for Alopecia Areata

Up until recently, Alopecia Areata was treated solely with steroids – both through injections into the area of loss in addition to topical creams.  Unfortunately, this still is not a cure and strong steroids are needed to illicit a positive response. Using these steroids long-term is never a favorable choice. Long-term use of steroids in the scalp can lead to thinning and weakening of the skin, as well as rebound irritation or skin reactions. Furthermore, because of the nature of the condition, most patients have to return multiple times a year to get more treatments.  In recent years we have also seen some success with treating Alopecia Areata with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy and Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).

If you think you are experiencing Alopecia Areata it is important to see a hair loss specialist that can diagnose the cause of your hair loss so that you can start an appropriate treatment plan as soon as possible.

Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team

[i] (Naaf.org, 2019)