At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we are fundamentally concerned with the problem of “alopecia,” a medical term that refers to the partial or complete loss of hair from areas of the body where it normally grows. While the most common form of alopecia in both men and women is inherited pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, there are actually a number of other forms of this condition. One of the more common is alopecia areata, an auto-immune disorder that affects an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States. Since alopecia areata is far less common than androgenetic alopecia, it is not as well understood. Many of those suffering from this form of hair loss have questions about exactly how the condition progresses and what can be done to treat it.
What is Alopecia Areata?
In those affected by alopecia areata, the body’s own white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles, causing inflammation and subsequent hair loss. In most cases of alopecia areata, hair begins to fall out in round patches leaving a small scattering of circular, hairless areas on the scalp. In some very rare cases, however, the areas affected can expand considerably, progressing to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or even the complete loss of all body hair (alopecia universalis).
What Causes Alopecia Areata?
Besides understanding that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, with genetic similarities to other autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease, scientists still know little about this condition. It is suspected that a combination of genes may predispose some people to the disease and that in those who are genetically predisposed some type of external trigger may be what initially stimulates the body to attack the hair follicles. There is an abundance of data being collected on this condition and its possible triggers through the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Who Gets Alopecia Areata?
Men, women, and children can all develop alopecia areata, although the chances of having the condition are slightly greater in patients with a relative who either has the disease or has a history of other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease. The disease also seems to present more often in the young. Up to 66% of patients are younger than 30, while only 20% are older than 40.
Will My Hair Ever Grow Back?
Alopecia areata is highly unpredictable and progresses differently in each person. Because the stem cells that supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted, the follicle retains its potential to regrow new hair no matter how widespread the hair loss. Hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and as many as 75% of cases resolve spontaneously within a year.
How Can Alopecia Areata Be Treated?
While there is no cure for the underlying condition that causes alopecia areata, there are many treatment options that have been shown to help restore some hair growth. Anti-inflammatory corticosteroids can help preserve the hair follicles while Rogaine® (minoxidil) has often proven successful in slowing hair loss and, in some cases, even re-growing hair. Some success has also been achieved with advanced non-surgical treatments like excimer laser therapy as well.
At The Griffin Center, we understand that hair loss can result from a wide variety of different causes and believe that every individual cause should be treated differently. That’s why every case of alopecia needs a diagnosis. If you have any other questions about hair loss or any of the hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.