driving under the influenceThis news story in the North-West Evening Mail – about a man who has been convicted for driving under the influence without insurance – gives us the opportunity to talk about alopecia areata.

A condition which affects 0.1% of the population, alopecia areata is known to laymen as ‘spot baldness’, as it usually creates rounded areas of hair loss. Not necessarily at the top of the head like male pattern baldness, either: it can appear on any part of the head and body where hair grows.

What causes alopecia areata?

This particular case of alopecia is believed to flare up due to an autoimmune disorder which can be hereditary.

Simply put, the body mistakenly assumes that the hair follicles are part of their Wanted List (which is usually contained to viruses and bacteria), and proceeds to hold back – and in some cases, completely shut down – their growth.

And while it’s generally agreed that alopecia areata is not thought to be caused by stress, it can definitely trigger a ton of knock-on anxiety whenever it occurs, for understandable reasons.

Is it treatable?

The bad news is there is no magic treatment that will clear alopecia areata. Having said that, some sufferers have been prescribed medications approved for other ailments which have helped with regrowth. The good news is that most cases, it’s a temporary condition, and the hair will eventually regrow.

The problem is that it’s an incredibly unpredictable condition, with no set timeframe as to when your follicular development will get back on track. In the meantime, more hair could be lost – and when your bald patches fill out, the initial re-growths could be white (although the colour gradually returns).

If you’re worried that your recent hair loss doesn’t cover natural male pattern baldness, the best advice is to consult your GP at your earliest convenience.

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By Ian Watson

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