Alopecia areata (AA) is a particular type of hair loss that causes the hair to fall out in round patches. It commonly affects the hair on the scalp, although it can also contribute to the loss of body hair, as well. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack healthy hair follicles to the point that the follicles cease hair production.
This condition affects around 6.8 million people in the United States. It is not limited to one gender, race or age, although many sufferers first experience symptoms during childhood or adolescence. For those who experience alopecia areata symptoms, the most difficult one is generally linked to appearance and self-esteem. Many sufferers have noticeable round, bald patches on their scalp which are hard to hide and may prompt a number of questions from those who are unfamiliar with the condition. Alopecia areata treatment options aim to restore the functionality of the affected hair follicles, in efforts to improve the sufferer’s self-confidence.
Is there a cure for alopecia areata?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for alopecia areata, although there are a few, somewhat effective treatments to lessen the symptoms associated with the disorder. To determine which treatment option is most suitable for you or your child’s specific case, several factors should be considered. First and foremost, the severity of hair loss can guide a doctor towards the right treatment recommendations.
In mild cases, a doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo, lotion or steroid product to apply directly to the scalp. These forms of treatment can aid in regrowth, though the results will be gradual and work only in some individuals. For more difficult cases, a doctor will likely recommend steroid injections into the scalp. These are more likely to induce regrowth but must be repeated at regular intervals and whenever new patches appear.
How does alopecia areata affect quality of life?
While alopecia areata is not a physically painful condition and does not consist of bothersome rashes or hives like other skin ailments, the emotional effects can be significant enough to interfere with a patient’s quality of life. In many instances, patients with hair loss will attempt to hide the bald patches by wearing hats, cosmetic coverups or wigs. They may feel embarrassed about their condition to the point that it affects their performance at work or school, along with their relationships. This embarrassment can be worsened when sufferers are around people who are uneducated about the effects of alopecia areata.
One of the best ways to reduce these negative associations is to inform those who are around you about the causes and symptoms of alopecia areata. This is especially important if the patient is a child who feels withdrawn or ashamed because of their diagnosis. Sharing information with classmates, family (or coworkers, for adults) can significantly decrease the amount of shame that is associated with alopecia areata.
There are several support groups and national associations that can help individuals with AA learn techniques to cope with the day-to-day frustrations of this condition. These include the NAAF, Daily Strength, and World Alopecia Community among others.
CDCRI Can Help Treat Your Alopecia Areata
At the California Dermatology and Clinical Research Institute, we frequently conduct studies surrounding alopecia areata in efforts to provide sufferers with the most effective options for treatment. If you or your child has been diagnosed with alopecia areata and you are in need of assistance, call us at (760) 203-3839 today to discuss your options.