Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where there is severe hair loss on parts of the body especially the head, and it will typically affect one half of the head more than the other. Do not confuse this with male pattern baldness. Recently it has been found that it is caused due to some kind of abnormality in the immune system, which causes the body's immunity to attack the hair follicles, and affects hair growth. It can also be due to some other autoimmune condition like allergies, thyroids, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. It can also be genetic and hereditary.
Normally diagnosis would be done by a dermatologist using a lens, but in some cases a biopsy of the scalp is necessary. It will require some treatment, but in 50 percent of the cases hair will start growing back within a year even without treatment. Treatment can be of two types - Medication and surgery.
Medication can be effective in some cases, but medication depends on the amount of hair loss and a person's reaction to hair loss. There are some medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these are:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) - this is an over the counter medication that can be used for alopecia, especially androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata. Minoxidil comes in a liquid form, 2% and 5%, and needs to be rubbed into the scalp at least twice in a day. This will work in the growing back of hair and also will prevent any more hair loss. The hair that grows back with Minoxidil is shorter and finer but will help in covering up bald patches. Remember that as soon as you stop using this lotion hair will stop growing. Minoxidil can sometimes cause irritation to the scalp.
- Corticosteroids - this is a slightly painful treatment. Injections of Corticosteroids will be injected into the scalp on a monthly basis and this will result in hair growth. In cases of extensive alopecia areata, dermatologists will prescribe Corticosteroids pills to work along with the injections. Though there are creams and ointments of Corticosteroids available, they are not as effective as the injection.
- Anthralin (Drithocreme) - this treatment is in the form of a cream or ointment that is synthetic and tar based. It requires to be applied on the scalp daily and then washed off. It works well, but if discontinued the growth of hair will stop.
Surgery is an option for those for whom medications haven't worked. These surgeries are normally hair transplants or in some cases scalp reduction surgery. The hair transplant surgery is simpler but will require repeated sessions till sufficient hair plugs have been put in. scalp reduction surgery is painful, expensive and complicated and it needs to be combined with hair transplant surgery to give it a natural look.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.