What Is Alopecia Areata?

What Is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata is a condition characterized by rapid hair loss that commonly occurs in young young adults and children under the age of 20, although it can affect people of any age.

It is characterized by hair that falls out in clumps as a result of the immune system attacking the hair follicles. There is no clear reason for the immune system to attack the hair follicles affected by Alopecia Areata. The good news is that Alopecia Areata is treatable, when correctly diagnosed.

How Is Alopecia Areata Diagnosed?

The area that has suffered from hair loss will be a smooth patch that is round in shape on the scalp. The diagnosis is typically made by simply visually examining the area, but a skin care provider might also perform:

  • Blood tests
  • A biopsy of the affected area

Blood Tests will test for medical conditions that may be contributing to the alopecia, such as an underactive or overactive thyroid.

A biopsy is conducted by numbing the area, and taking a small piece of skin for a pathologist to examine.

How is Alopecia Areata Treated?

Although it can be unsightly to deal with, alopecia rarely results in permanent hair loss. Typically, the condition resolves on its own, but may last several weeks to months. It is difficult to predict how long it will last, or how much it will progress. Treating the condition is not always warranted; However, there are multiple medical treatment options available.

Corticosteroids Injections are the most common form of treatment for Alopecia Areata. The medication is injected into the scalp with gaps of about one centimeter. This procedure is repeated every four to six weeks for the best results.

Topical corticosteroids are a common treatment for children and some adults. The corticosteroid is applied directly to the affected area. Minoxidil or Rogaine can be applied in conjunction with this topical treatment.

Psoralen with Ultraviolet A Light (PUVA) Therapy is used in cases where large areas of the scalp have been affected. A medically trained professional will first apply psoralen to the area to heighten sensitivity to the treatment. UVA light is then directed toward the affected area.

Contact Immunotherapy is a method used to promote hair growth by initiating an allergic reaction on the scalp. Although this form of treatment could result in rashes and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, hair growth usually begins after three months of the weekly process.

How Can Alopecia Areata Affect Me?

While alopecia will not have a direct affect on your health, it can be cosmetically unappealing in dealing with the patchy hair loss.

Treatment is available and should be administered by a medically trained professional for optimal results. To schedule a consultation and to discuss treatment options, call the Skin & Cancer Center of Scottsdale at (480) 596-1110.