Alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss.
Alopecia totalis; Alopecia universalis
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia. Alopecia areata may sometimes occur with autoimmune diseases.
Forms of alopecia include:
- Alopecia totalis -- complete loss of scalp hair
- Alopecia universalis -- total loss of all body hair
- Loss of all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis)
- Loss of all scalp hair (alopecia totalis)
- Roundish patches of hair loss on the head
- Smooth, hairless scalp in the affected areas
Hairs that look like exclamation points are sometimes seen at the edges of a bald patch.
Signs and tests
On occasion, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Several blood tests may be done, because alopecia areata may occur with autoimmune conditions.
No fully effective treatments are available. Typical therapy includes:
- Steroid injection under the skin surface
- Topical corticosteroids
- Ultraviolet light therapy
Irritating drugs may be applied to hairless areas to cause the hair to regrow.
Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:
- Alopecia areata at a young age
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Long-term alopecia
Permanent hair loss is a possible complication of alopecia areata.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are concerned about hair loss.
Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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