Hair_pulling_stressWhilst it is possible that this is male pattern baldness it seems more likely that the condition is alopecia areata. Male pattern baldness tends to generally affect men over the age of 25 and usually sees the hair receding gradually, affecting the front and top of the scalp first.

Symptoms of alopecia areata

Alopecia areata affects about 15 in 10,000 people and can occur at any age but it is more common in people under the 21 with at least 50% of the cases developing in people in this age range.

The condition usually starts the same way with one or more large coin sized circular bald patches suddenly appearing on the scalp. After that it may develop in a number of different ways. It’s quite possible that patches will simply disappear or they may grow in size individually or connect with each other. The bald skin generally looks perfectly healthy, although there may be some mild redness and/or itchiness.

It is generally considered to be an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakes perfectly healthy hair follicles as invading foreign body, such as a bacteria or virus. It may be recommended that tests are carried out for other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders. Generally speaking though, the diagnosis of the condition itself is carried out visually.

The prognosis

The outlook is usually quite positive for most patients with no action required. Often the bald patches will simply disappear and 8 out of 10 people have full hair growth within one year if less than half the scalp has been affected. It is likely though that there will be one or more future recurrences for most people.

There are a number of treatment options, although they should be approached with some caution as quite often the hair regrows naturally. In some cases a referral may be made to a hospital for a course of steroid injections which can be effective for smaller sized bald patches, however they do not have 100% success rate.

Less effective solutions can involve rub-on compounds, such as steroid cream gel or topical monoxidil solutions. In some cases, counselling may be required to deal with the anxiety or depression caused by the condition.

Whilst this is a distressing condition for a young person, some solace should be taken from the fact that it is usually not as permanent or irreversible as Male Pattern Baldness and most patients have a fully restored head of hair within 12 months.

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By Ian Watson

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