Alopecia Areata

What is Alopecia Areata? Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder of the body’s hair follicles characterized by non-scarring hair loss. It can develop in people of any gender and ethnicity. While the age of onset is usually before 30, alopecia areata may occur at any age.

How and why does Alopecia Areata occur?

The pathogenesis of alopecia areata has not been fully determined but is thought to result from several factors, including genetic susceptibility and immune dysregulation that may be triggered by a history of infection, medication, vaccine, or severe emotional stress. The autoimmune reaction occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle, leading to a sudden increase in hair loss.


What are the symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata involves a sudden loss of hair that may be transient. The extent and area of loss may be different for each person. The symptoms are classified into three main types:

  • Alopecia areata- hair loss that occurs in patches of smooth, circular, discrete areas of complete hair loss. While the hair usually re-grows, some may experience hair loss that persists.
  • Alopecia totalis- loss of all the hair on the head.
  • Alopecia universalis- A rare form of alopecia areata with loss of all the hair on the head and body.

In addition, abnormalities of the fingernails and toenails may also be experienced. Possible indications that the hair loss is caused by alopecia areata include the sparing of gray and white hairs, re-growth in the area of hair loss, and hair loss occurring during colder months of the year.


How is Alopecia Areata treated?

While not all patients will opt for treatment, there are several options available. Some patients may choose cosmetic approaches, such as wigs, temporary tattooing of eyebrows, or fake eyelashes. 

Medical management of alopecia areata may include:

  • Corticosteroids in the form of injectable, oral, or topical formulations.
  • Topical minoxidil.
  • Anthralin.
  • Topical immunotherapy.
  • Systemic immunosuppressive drugs, such as methotrexate and cyclosporine.

Source: Sterkens, A., Lambert, J., & Bervoets, A. (2021). Alopecia areata: a review on diagnosis, immunological etiopathogenesis and treatment options. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 21(2), 215–230.