Alopecia is a general term that means hair loss. There are many different specific causes of alopecia. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune type of hair loss. For an unknown reason, in otherwise healthy individuals, the body attacks the hair bulbs with inflammation that results in patchy areas of loss.
It may last for many years on and off but only very rarely does it result in complete hair loss. Alopecia areata does not cause any internal problems in the body. However, people with one autoimmune condition are statistically at higher risk of another than your average individual. In particular, there is a higher risk of thyroid conditions or vitiligo. Therefore, we sometimes recommend a thyroid check with your annual blood work or sooner if symptoms are present.
There are various treatments to help treat alopecia areata. Treating individual patches does not alter the course of the condition. This means that deciding to treat an individual patch will not have any effect on whether or not additional lesions occur in the future.
There are a variety of treatment options. Topical steroids, topical minoxidil (rogaine), intralesional injections of steroids are some of the more frequent initial recommended treatments. There are some exciting new potential treatments coming in the pharmaceutical pipeline that may one day help for difficult to treat cases.
For more detailed information about this condition and treatment options follow the links below: