Alopecia areata: Causes, symptoms, and treatment
Alopecia areata is a disease that causes hair to fall out in small patches. It develops when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Sudden hair loss may occur on the scalp and other parts of the body. The condition rarely results in total hair loss, or alopecia universalis, but it can prevent hair from growing back. When hair does grow back, it’s possible for the hair to fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies from person-to-person.
There’s currently no cure for alopecia areata. However, there are treatments that may help hair grow back more quickly and that can prevent future hair loss. There are also resources available to help people cope with the disease.
The main symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss. Hair usually falls out in small round patches on the scalp. These patches are usually several centimeters or less. Hair loss might also occur on other parts of the body. You may first notice clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower. However, other types of diseases can also cause hair to fall out in a similar pattern. Hair loss alone shouldn’t be used to diagnose alopecia areata.
In rare cases, some people may experience more extensive hair loss. This is usually an indication of another type of alopecia, such as:
- alopecia totalis, which is the loss of all hair on the scalp
- alopecia universalis, which is the loss of all hair on the entire body
The hair loss associated with alopecia areata is unpredictable and random. The hair may grow back at any time and then may fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies greatly from person-to-person.