Alopecia Areata is a condition that sees sufferers lose hair from their scalp but can also rob us of hair from the eyebrows and elsewhere. More is known that even before, we take a closer look.
Alopecia areata, and it’s progressive variants, are conditions which see the immune system, for reasons we do not yet fully understand, attack the hair follicles. This causes inflammation which interferes with the follicle’s normal growth cycle. Areata usually presents as disc-shaped patches of hair loss on the scalp, although it can also affect other areas like eyebrows and beards. Around 10% of cases of areata will progress, either to become alopecia totalis which features the loss of all hair from the scalp or to become alopecia universalis where hair is lost from the scalp and body. Both totalis and universalis, due to that loss of all scalp hair are particularly challenging given that the sufferer is all too easily confused with someone undergoing chemotherapy… an unwelcome and depressing stigma.
It can affect men and women of any age, though genetic factors are seen in around one-fifth of cases with a first-degree relative suffering the same condition.
There are a few accompanying conditions that are regular for alopecia areata sufferers, some of which are important to check for. Top of that list is thyroid disease, for which your doctor will need to conduct a test. Then there is psoriasis and allergic rhinitis. Finally, Vitiligo, where pigment cells are destroyed in some areas leaving patches of bleached skin.
Like the alopecia areata itself, most of these conditions are temporary. Around half of all cases of alopecia areata will pass within a year. If it lasts longer than that, or if your nails are affected, or if you have allergies and a family history of alopecia, then the issue lies with your immune system, for which there is currently no cure.
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So there you have it. Alopecia areata is the focus of several research groups working on medications that might, in the not too distant future, translate into something tangible. In the meantime, sufferers will continue to suffer the random effects of alopecia areata, which are almost entirely emotional. Tough on the young but still difficult to handle for more mature sufferers an effective treatment cannot come to soon.
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