What is Alopecia Areata?
Most people are aware that alopecia is the term for hair loss, but not everyone may be aware that this can encompass many different types of hair loss, including alopecia areata, a condition in which the hair falls out in round patches, and which affects approximately 2% of the United States population. Alopecia areata is typically seen on the scalp, but rarely results in total baldness. It is different from the many other types of alopecia, and solutions, as well as recovery, are possible with alopecia areata. To see the full scope of this condition, read on for full details from symptoms to treatments, including custom wigs:
Alopecia areata is also known as “spot baldness” for its signature loss in round patches, mostly on the scalp, but possible anywhere where hair grows on the body. It is extremely uncommon, however, for alopecia areata to develop into complete baldness or hair loss–this occurs in less than 5% of patients, becoming alopecia totalis (total scalp hair loss) or alopcia universalis (total body hair loss). The patches are usually small, about the size of a quarter, and hair will grow back in many cases. It is also possible, however, for hair to fall out again, and difficult to predict in totality.
As keratin production is affected, fingernails and toenails may be mildly affected, resulting in small dents in the nails or white spots. The positive side of this disease is that there are no known health side effects, and alopecia areata sufferers are, for the most part, typically healthy otherwise.
What Causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disease, which means this type of hair loss is not caused from stress, diet, or lifestyle in general; it comes from a dysfunctioning of the immune system and thus has no total cure, though there are treatments. The immune system’s involvement essentially means that the body itself is attacking cells in hair follicles and pausing growth. The follicles are not permanently damaged, however, meaning that regrowth is perfectly possible, and often happens.
It is unknown exactly how closely tied genetics are to inheriting this disease. While it is possible to inherit, with about 25% of sufferers reporting relatives with the disease as well, it’s rare for a parent with alopecia areata to also have a child with it.
Alopecia areata typically begins in childhood, with an inconsistent cycle; for some, hair regrows and the problem never occurs again. For others, however, the cycle of hair falling out and regrowth may continue for years. Unfortunately, alopecia areata is impossible to predict in terms of timing, amount of hair that falls out, and relapse as well.
What are the Treatments for Alopecia Areata?
As mentioned previously, hair will often fully grow back without treatment, though in the interim, sufferers may want short-term solutions, like custom-made wigs, and they may consider treatments as well to speed up the regrowth.
When diagnosed with alopecia areata, you’ll be able to have a dermatologist prescribe one (or a mix) of the following rounds of treatments to aid in hair regrowth, though it should be noted that these treatments do not cure the autoimmune disease itself, guarantee re-growth, or prevent a recurrence.
- Corticosteroids: Intralesional corticosteroid injections, applied on the patches of bald skin, are the most common treatments, and new hair growth from these could be seen within one month.
- Minoxidil: This is a topical treatment that, taken twice a day, is both safe and effective for some at restarting hair growth within three months, though it is not suggested for those suffering total hair loss.
- Anthralin: Anthralin is a thick cream applied to bald patches that can promote new hair growth within two to three months.
- Total immunotherapy: Medicines like diphencyprone (DPCP) are applied to the skin and cause an allergic reaction–including itching, swelling, and redness–which tricks the immune system into sending white blood cells to help, and in the process, lowering inflammation and allowing hair to regrow. This could work in three to six months.
Custom Wig Options for Alopecia Areata
While alopecia areata patients wait for hair to regrow, as this disease unfortunately comes without warning and requires time to reverse, there are options in the meantime for unsightly bald patches, such as custom-made wigs. With a significant amount of scalp hair loss, this can be a wonderful choice, as custom wigs these days can be highly tailored both to your visual specifications and to your scalp for efficiency, ease, and, of course, an overall feeling of power and beauty–which everyone deserves.
Alopecia areata can be mentally and emotionally upsetting, but if you or someone you know suffers from it now, there are many options to work with it. A full custom wig is not the best solution for everyone but we at Chrysalis Custom Hair try to help as many women with medically induced hair loss as possible. For more information to see if a custom wig might be an option for your alopecia areata contact us today.