August 21 2021
Alopecia areata is classic as an autoimmune condition where the healthy cells are mistaken for foreign invaders and the immune system triggers an inflammatory response. In the presence of conditions such as alopecia areata, the hair follicles are perceived as foreign pathogens and an immune response is initiated and the hair follicles get attacked. Hair follicles refer to the structures which form the base of the hair and enable them to grow. In the individuals suffering from alopecia areata, the hair follicles get reduced in size and the formation of hair ceases leading to hair loss.
The exact reason for the root causes of alopecia areata is not known. Studies show that hereditary and the presence of a family history of autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to show the incidence of alopecia areata. It has also been found that various environmental factors also induce hair loss at a faster pace in people who are more genetically prone to get alopecia areata.
Symptoms of alopecia areata
The most commonly manifested symptoms of alopecia areata include hair loss which occurs throughout the scalp in small patches that often measure a few centimeters or even less in some individuals. Studies have shown that the hair loss associated with alopecia areata may also spread to other parts of the body such as the face, the eyebrows, eyelashes, and the beard. The amount of hair loss is said to vary from individual to individual with some people suffering from hair loss in a few places while others manifest hair loss in a lot of areas.
The first major spotting of hair loss starts with the occurrence of large clumps of hair on the pillow used for sleeping as well as hair loss that occurs while taking a shower. Usually, hair loss in patches that occurs on the back of the head is the most prominently visible by others. In very specific cases, extensive hair loss may occur which denotes the following types of alopecia which are:
- Alopecia totalis where all the hair in the scalp is lost and
- Alopecia Universalis where all of the hair that is present throughout the body is lost.
In some individuals, hair loss occurs which can be categorized in between these two types where the hair loss may in the arms, legs, and scalp but the hair on the chest may be still present. The major problem associated with alopecia areata is that no one can predict the amount of hair loss that can occur which according to research is usually unpredictable and spontaneous and varies greatly depending on the environment as well as genetic factors. The hair that has been lost can also regrow in some individuals on timely intervention.
The outcome of alopecia areata
The outcome of alopecia areata mainly depends on several factors such as the onset of the condition, the extent of hair loss, changes occurring in the nails, presence of family history, and the occurrence of other associated autoimmune disorders. Developing alopecia areata may be an emotionally challenging condition as visible hair loss in patches may make the individual feel isolated as well as depressed. Many lifestyle modifications can be adapted to cope up with the autoimmune disorder like alopecia areata. Wigs and hair extensions can be effectively used in hiding the visible patches where hair loss occurs.
Treatment of alopecia areata
The treatment modalities of alopecia areata do not guarantee a cure but by the application of various procedures, the rate of hair loss can be curtailed, and sometimes hair can be regrown also. Some of the medical treatments that can be effective in reducing hair loss in alopecia areata are:
By the application of various medications onto the scalp, the hair follicles can be stimulated and hair can be regrown. Minoxidil is also known as Rogaine on applying twice a day to the scalp, eyebrows, and beard has shown beneficial results in those individuals who have a mild type of alopecia areata. Anthralin is a medication that stimulates the skin thereby promoting hair growth. The use of corticosteroid creams like clobetasol in the form of either lotions, ointments, or hair sprays can also promote hair growth by reducing inflammation in the hair. The application of topical immunotherapy using a chemical called diphencyprone has been known to induce hair growth.
The use of steroids is beneficial in treating mild and patchy forms of alopecia areata which are effective in bringing back hair growth in the visible bald spots on the head. This technique uses the injection of extremely small needles that contain the steroid into the skin of the areas where hair loss patches are present.
In cases of severe alopecia areata, cortisone tablets are used. Another available medication includes oral immunosuppressants such as methotrexate and cyclosporine which inhibit the immune system from damaging the hair follicles thereby decreasing the rate of hair loss.
Also known as photochemotherapy or phototherapy, this technique applies the use of radiation in the treatment along with oral medications known as psoralens which increase the sensitivity to light in combination with ultraviolet light.
Natural remedies for alopecia areata
Some individuals show extremely beneficial results by using alternative methods of treatment such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, micro-needling, use of probiotics, application of low-level laser therapy ( LLLT), intake of vitamin supplements such as Alvizia biotin capsules, consumption of foods sources rich in zinc, drinking aloe Vera based drinks and using its topical gels, drinking essential oils such as tea tree, rosemary, lavender, and peppermint, using other oils such as coconut oil, castor oil, olive oil and jojoba oil in various food preparations.
Intake of the anti-inflammatory diet which follows the autoimmune protocol consists of foods such as meat and vegetables also promotes control of inflammation in the hair follicles thereby reducing hair loss. Regular massaging of the scalp and the intake of herbal supplements like Alvizia triple ginseng, green tea, Chinese hibiscus and saw palmetto has also been found to be beneficial in those suffering from alopecia areata. Depending on the severity of the hair loss and also genetic factors, the effectiveness of the treatment modalities varies from person to person and some may also require a combination of various therapies to achieve effective control over hair loss.