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Alopecia Areata: Explaining Autoimmune Hair Loss

The autoimmune disease alopecia areata is a type of hair loss condition. It has unique characteristics that can be observed and is distinguishable from other types easily. 

This condition is observed more in women than men globally. Compared to males, females are 60% more prone to develop alopecia areata due to unknown reasons.

In this article, you will see:

  • ALOPECIA AREATA IS A NON-DANGEROUS AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.
  • ALOPECIA AREATA HAS OTHER SUBTYPES.
  • THE EXACT CAUSES OF ALOPECIA AREATA ARE STILL UNCLEAR.
  • SOME OTHER MEDICAL CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE ALOPECIA AREATA.
  • YOU MAY SEE SOME SIGNS OF ALOPECIA AREATA.
  • ALOPECIA AREATA IS CURABLE, MEANING THE HAIR CAN GROW BACK.
ALOPECIA AREATA

What is Alopecia Areata?

The alopecia areata is the sudden loss of hair. This exhibits patchy hair loss (bald spot on head) on the scalp, eyebrows, or beard. In some rare cases, it can also occur anywhere on the entire body

Alopecia areata pronunciation: al-uh-pee-shee-uh / ar-ee-ey-tuh

Is Alopecia Areata a Disease?

Yes, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune disease changes the course of events in the case of treatment, the amount of hair that will fall, and the process. 

In the case of Alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles (also known as T-cell attack), causing hair to fall out. It can be observed on the scalp, or face, as patches of hair loss.

You should know that autoimmune diseases cannot be cured but can be treated when diagnosed early. 

Is Alopecia Areata Dangerous?

No, it is not dangerous. Alopecia areata is not lifethreatening and noncontagious. It does not cause any pain or discomfort. Although it is an autoimmune disease, it does not promote other health conditions. 

What Are The Alopecia Areata Types?

Different types of alopecia areata include:

  • ALOPECIA BARBAE
  • ALOPECIA INCOGNITA
  • ALOPECIA OPHIASIS
  • ALOPECIA TOTALIS
  • ALOPECIA UNIVERSALIS
  • DIFFUSE ALOPECIA AREATA
  • PATCHY ALOPECIA AREATA

4 Alopecia Areata Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of alopecia areata may include:

  • PATCHY BALD SPOTS
  • ITCHING, BURNING, OR TINGLING SENSATION ON THE AFFECTED AREA
  • SUDDEN WHITE HAIR GROWTH/HAIR WHITENING
  • EXCLAMATION MARK HAIRS


These alopecia symptoms are observed rather easily. Exclamation mark hair looks thinner at the ends and thicker at the roots.

If you are observing these alopecia symptoms, contact your dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis and to go over a treatment plan that may help with the situation. 

Causes of Alopecia Areata

The exact underlying alopecia causes are yet to be unknown. Researchers do not have a clear answer to why the immune system attacks the hair follicles and causes hair loss.

However, there may be some possible causes of alopecia areata. Some diseases may or may not cause this autoimmune hair loss. For instance, some allergies like hay fever can trigger alopecia areata. 

Along with that, severe stress and physical or emotional trauma can also contribute to this condition. 

Alopecia Areata Causes in Females, Males, and Children

There are no known specific causes for alopecia areata in females, males, or children.

Alopecia areata can happen to anyone at any age. It can either be genetic or not. It also does not have specific causes among races and ethnicities either. However, recent studies suggest that some races and/or ethnicities have a higher chance of developing alopecia areata.

Is Alopecia Areata Genetic?

There are no clear answers to that yet. It can either be genetic or not. 

Alopecia Areata can occur after generations and generations, or one might be the first one to have alopecia areata in their whole family line. However, if someone in your bloodline has or had alopecia areata, you are at more risk for alopecia areata. It can be triggered by severe stress or other illnesses.

Is There Any Autoimmune Disease That Causes Alopecia Areata?

Yes, there are some autoimmune conditions that can trigger alopecia areata. Such as:

  • PSORIASIS
  • VITILIGO
  • THYROID DISEASE

How Does Alopecia Areata Start?

Alopecia hair loss occurs suddenly, it can be during the day or while you are sleeping. 

A great amount of hair can fall off from the patch it is about to form. At first, it might not be gone completely, but it can happen very fast. 

The only sign that may indicate alopecia areata is itching, burning, and tingling sensation on the scalp, beard, or eyebrow.

How Does Diffuse Alopecia Areata Happen?

Diffusion occurs around the entire scalp instead of patchy hair loss. Hair thinning can be observed with this condition. Diffuse alopecia areata may or may not cause severe hair loss.

Diffuse alopecia areata happens predominantly in women. It is a subtype of alopecia areata. This happens when there is a case of severe alopecia areata

How Differently Do Alopecia Areata Affect Races and Ethnicities?

According to many clinical trials, compared to white people, African-American people have a higher chance of developing alopecia areata. Meanwhile, Asian and Hispanic people have a lower chance of developing the disease than white people. 

See the table for the chance (%) of incidence for races and ethnicities.

White

0.64% (of 62,376 participants)

Black

1.66% (of 905 participants)

Other (Asian, Hispanic, Native American, etc.)

0.59% (of 679 participants)

Is Alopecia Areata Permanent?

In most cases, alopecia areata is not permanent. The disease does not harm the hair follicles in a way that takes away their ability to regrow hair. 

However, there is a chance that alopecia areata can develop into alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis, causing permanent and extensive hair loss that can affect all of the body hair.

How Is Alopecia Areata Diagnosed?

Alopecia areata diagnosis can be done via various tests and examinations. 

  • BLOOD TEST
  • CARD TEST
  • DERMOSCOPIC EXAMINATION
  • FAMILY HISTORY
  • MEDICAL HISTORY
  • PULL TEST
  • SKIN BIOPSY
  • TUG TEST

Is Alopecia Areata Curable?

No, alopecia areata is not curable as it is an autoimmune disease. However, if diagnosed early, there are available alopecia areata treatment options available.

The available options of treatment for alopecia areata are:

  • TOPICAL IMMUNOTHERAPY
  • IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE THERAPY
  • IMMUNOMODULATORY THERAPY
  • CORTICOSTEROID THERAPY
  • SQUARIC ACID
  • MINOXIDIL TREATMENT
  • JANUS KINASE (JAK) INHIBITORS
  • METHOTREXATE

Can Alopecia Areata Be Treated At Home?

As alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, the chances of alopecia areata natural treatment options working are slim to none. 

You should always opt for an alopecia treatment under the observation of a professional. 

However, here are some natural remedies for alopecia areata:

  • ROSEMARY, COCONUT, CARROT, OR HIBISCUS OIL
  • ALOE VERA
  • ONION JUICE
  • AROMATHERAPY

 

These remedies generally have anti-inflammatory effects. 

Can Hair Transplantation Help with Alopecia Areata?

Hair transplant has a great rate of success in general. However, it is rarely useful for patients with alopecia areata. So, a hair transplant is not commonly considered an alopecia hair treatment option.

The reason for that is alopecia areata, as an autoimmune disease, attacks the hair follicles and affects their health. In this case, hair transplant may not be successful among alopecia areata patients. 

Alopecia Areata Regrowth Signs

When alopecia areata starts to fade away, one may observe hair growing back at the center of the bald spot. Of course, in some cases, the hair all around the bald spot can start to grow simultaneously. 

Afterward, alopecia areata fine white hair regrowth can occur. This later, in a few months, may or may not return to its original color.

Why the Hair Grows Back White After Alopecia Areata?

After alopecia areata, hair follicles still have the ability to regrow hair. Sometimes the hair grows back grey, white, or “colorless”. This happens because the immune system attacks melanocyte cells that produce pigments along with hair follicles. 

It takes a few months for melanocyte cells to fully function again and give hair its color back. Until then, there may be small, likely temporary issues like this and thin hair growth at the beginning. 

[1] Lundin M, Chawa S, Sachdev A, Bhanusali D, Seiffert-Sinha K, Sinha AA. Gender differences in alopecia areata. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD. 2014;13(4):409-413. 

[2] NIAMS. Alopecia Areata. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Published 2019.

[3] Lee H, Jung SJ, Patel AB, Thompson JM, Qureshi A, Cho E. Racial characteristics of alopecia areata in the United States. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2020;83(4):1064-1070.

‌[4] Thompson JM, Park MK, Qureshi AA, Cho E. Race and Alopecia Areata amongst US Women. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. 2018;19(1):S47-S50. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jisp.2017.10.007