What Causes Alopecia?
Alopecia areata, as it is formally called, is a condition that affects a person's hair follicles. The condition can occur in any person and often begins during childhood. The condition is characterized as an autoimmune disease. This is the system in the body that works to fight off infections in the body. However, for unknown reasons, the immune system in some individuals works against the body. When this happens, it can cause a wide range of health conditions. Alopecia is one of them. In those that have this condition, the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
Doctors do not know specifically what causes this condition. In most cases, it is related to a person's genetic makeup, meaning that if you have a family member who has this condition, you may have it as well. It is believed that some type of trigger occurs that causes the genes to activate. This could be a virus or an environmental factor. In short, something changes, triggers the gene, and the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
What Are the Symptoms of Alopecia?
Most people know they have this condition by looking at their hair. If you notice a significant amount of hair falling out, this could be this condition. However, it is misleading to believe that all hair loss is alopecia. Most people loose hair every day. This hair loss is spread out over the entire head, though. Those who have alopecia have hair loss concentrated in one area or in a few specific areas. This causes a total or near-total loss of hair in that area. This area is usually about the size of a quarter.
For many, the area without hair will not regrow hair for a long period of time. In some cases, it will regrow in a short period of time. It is not known when it will happen or why it will regrow, even if it will not. Others will see total re-growth in a short period of time only for the hair loss to occur again.
Will Your Hair Come Back?
There are treatment options available for those who have alopecia. There is no cure for this condition, though. In fact, there are no medications approved by the FDA as a treatment specifically for alopecia areata. However, some doctors recommend other known medications to help improve the condition. It is always best to work with your doctor to find the right treatment option for you specifically. The following are some of the treatments doctors may use.
- Corticosteriods - medications that reduce pain and swelling and regulate the immune system
- Creams and lotions - drugs such as Anthralin, Minoxidil, and others, which are rubbed into the skin in the affected area
- Immune system drugs - including cyclosporine and sulfasalazine, which help to regulate the immune system
Additionally, Low Level Light therapy and alternative therapies may be effective in treating your condition. This could include aroma therapy, acupuncture, zinc supplementation and vitamins. The success rate of any of these treatments seems to vary by individual.
What Can You Do to Deal with It?
It is critical for people to work towards managing alopecia while it is present. It is possible to cope with this condition by talking to others who have it and learning as much as you can about it. Additionally, the use of wigs, hair replacement systems, scarves, or other adornments can help individuals to feel more confident. In some cases, you may learn to simply style your hair to cover problem areas.
Alopecia seems like a very worrisome condition. However, many people find that it is possible to cope with this condition successfully with proper treatment, understanding of it, and coping methods. By simply learning how to deal with the condition, you may be able to avoid the worry that comes with this condition.