Diagnosing and treating hair loss can sometimes be far more complicated than most people imagine. Most hair loss cases are the result of androgenetic alopecia, a condition commonly referred to as male or female genetic pattern baldness, there are in fact many other forms of hair loss as well. One of these forms is alopecia areata, a serious condition that causes patchy hair loss and can, in some cases, lead to the total loss of all the hair on the head or even the entire body.
An estimated two percent of Americans (roughly 6.5 million people) suffer from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder similar to rheumatoid arthritis where the body’s immune system attacks the rapidly growing cells at the base of the hair follicles. This results in inflammation, which effectively stalls the natural cycle of hair growth and causes hair to shed in one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp. In some rare cases, alopecia areata may progress to the point that all of the scalp hair is lost, a condition called alopecia totalis, or even to alopecia universalis, the complete loss of all body hair. The condition can occur in men, women, and even in children, although the chances of having the condition do appear to be slightly greater in patients with a family history of other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease. The disease also seems to appear more often in the young, as nearly 70% of the patients with alopecia areata are younger than 30 and fewer than 20% are older than 40.
Unfortunately, the underlying causes of alopecia areata are still not entirely understood. Symptoms can unexpectedly “flare-up” or go into spontaneous remission seemingly without warning. The condition is usually diagnosed by a detailed exam of the scalp, and sometimes a skin biopsy is required. Additional blood tests may also be necessary if there is a possibility that the patient might have a different autoimmune disease. Although there is no cure, alopecia areata can potentially be treated with a combination of injections, topical medications, light treatments, and even oral medications, but each case must be treated differently depending on the extent of the individual hair loss. At The Griffin Center, we have also had a great deal of success using advanced non-surgical hair loss treatments like red light laser therapy, narrowband UVB treatments, or injections of platelet rich plasma. Often, only temporary treatment is required, since as many as 75% of cases resolve spontaneously within a year.
Not all forms of hair loss are the same, and each requires its own customized approach. This is why Dr. Edmond Griffin and Dr. Ashley Curtis place insist on providing every patient with a comprehensive hair loss diagnosis. Dealing with alopecia areata can be extremely difficult, so we also encourage patients to use the National Alopecia Areata Foundation as a resource to get more in-depth information about this condition as it becomes available. If you have any questions about your own personal hair loss or if you would like to learn more about any of the advanced hair loss treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration or The Griffin Center for Women’s Hair Loss to schedule a consultation. Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.