At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we realize that hair loss can result from a wide variety of different causes and that every individual cause should be treated differently. That’s why every case of alopecia needs a diagnosis; there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” treatment. Even though the majority of cases may be the result of androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, it is important to understand the many other potential causes of hair loss. One such cause is alopecia areata, a common auto-immune disorder that affects an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States alone.
Those suffering from alopecia areata begin losing hair in one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp. This can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or even the complete loss of all body hair (alopecia universalis). While the disease can affect men and women of all ages, it does seem to present more often in the young. Up to 66% of patients are younger than 30, while only 20% are older than 40. Alopecia areata is highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person.
Typically, alopecia areata interrupts the natural process of hair growth. The body’s natural immune system (white blood cells) attacks the base of the hair follicle during the anagen, or growth phase, as though the hair was an invading disease. This pushes the follicle prematurely into the catagen phase, where hair stops growing. Additionally, the natural inflammation caused by the body’s immune response further weakens the hair shaft in the hair canal, allowing it to be even more easily shed. All this results in the sudden and rapid loss of hair in the areas affected.
Alopecia areata occurs in two forms: a mild patchy form where less than 50 percent of scalp hair is lost and an extensive form where greater than 50 percent of scalp hair is lost. These two forms of alopecia areata behave quite differently, and the specific treatment depends on which form is present. There is no cure for alopecia areata; the current treatments do not turn alopecia areata off but simply decrease the inflammation around the hair shafts and stimulate the follicle to produce hair again. There are numerous reported treatment options for alopecia areata, ranging from topical cortisone’s and cortisone injections to oral medications and even light treatments. Initial treatments, typically involving cortisone injections or topically applied minoxidil, need to be continued until the disease naturally goes into remission. Fortunately, no matter how widespread the hair loss, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. Hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and as many as 75% of cases resolve spontaneously within a year. However there are cases where the hairs do not respond to the many treatment options available and therefore remain dormant without regrowth.
If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments, please contact The Griffin Center today. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more hair loss information.