Alopecia areata is a type of skin disease classified by non-scarring hair loss. The affected area has coin-sized hair loss baldness on the scalp or any other part of the body. The pathology and etiology of this disease are yet unknown. However, the histopathology of the disease is marked by an increase in the telogen follicles and existence of inflammatory lymphocytic. There are mainly two types of alopecia areata; alopecia universalis and alopecia totalis. When the condition spreads to the entire scalp, it is known as alopecia totalis. But when the condition spreads to the entire skin surface, (legs, arms, face, etc.) it is known as alopecia universalis. According to reports, the existence of alopecia areata is associated with other autoimmune diseases such as planus, vitiligo, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and diabetes. Additionally, there might be a high occurrence of depressive and anxiety disorders in alopecia areata patients.
When it comes to different age groups, the skin condition occurs mostly in young adults, and the rate of occurrence rises between 20 – 25 years of age. One point to note is that alopecia areata is rare in the elderly. There is a direct relationship between the degree of severity in alopecia areata and greying hair. Some reports state that alopecia areata targets pigmented hair and the melanogenic follicular system is the chief target in this disease.
Diagnosis of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata requires thorough examination to understand the severity of the disease on a particular patient. The chances are that a dermatologist may be able to diagnose the degree of the disease by merely looking at the affected site. Whereas in some cases, one would have to examine the hair under a microscope. The diagnosis differs in every situation.
The dermatologist can also carry out scalp biopsy to eliminate other skin conditions such as fungal infections (tinea capitis). Blood tests and Capilloscopy are also done to examine any underlying autoimmune disorder and the follicular hair system respectively.
Treating Alopecia Areata
One can undergo many treatments and therapies to rectify alopecia areata. One conventional form of treating alopecia areata is by using an anti-inflammatory drug – corticosteroids. The drug works by repressing the immune system which exhibits different levels of result. An individual is also prescribed amino acid supplements that contain L-tyrosine to reduce auto-inflammation. Besides these, affected individuals can also take Anthralin, DPCP, and Minoxidil that help promote hair regrowth. Although they might encourage new hair, the medications can not fend off the creation of new bald patches.
Since alopecia areata can’t be cured, alternatives need to be taken to tackle it. Some people who aren’t satisfied with the result of medications can opt for therapies such as aromatherapy and acupuncture to de-stress and rejuvenate. These therapies aren’t clinically tested. Hence their effect can’t be measured.
Let’s take a look at some ways that can help you minimise the discomfort caused by alopecia areata.
- Apply sunscreen and moisturizer to the affected area to avoid dry skin and sunburns.
- Always wear sunglasses to protect the eyes if your eyelashes have fallen off.
- Cover your scalp with a scarf or a cap to avoid getting fungal infections.
Alopecia areata affects the younger generation much more than any age group. Hence, it is essential for them to balance their mental health as well because alopecia areata can be a traumatic skin disease. One must also address the emotional aspect involved with the hair loss and communicate it with others to enable the best treatment.