6 Facts About Alopecia
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. In alopecia areata, the hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In some cases, people will only have a few bare patches, but in others, hair loss can progress to include the entire scalp (alopecia areata totalis) or the entire scalp, face and body (alopecia areata univeralis).
In alopecia areata, the white blood cells attack rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles, causing them to become small, which slows down hair production. But, the stem cells that continuously supply the new cells are not affected. This means the follicle always has potential to regrow hair.
This type of alopecia affects about 2 percent of Americans. It affects both sexes, and all ages and ethnicities. Often, the hair loss begins in childhood.
Alopecia does have a genetic component. The risk increases if you have a close family member with the disease. If a family member lost his or her first patch of hair before age 30, the risk to other family members is greater. One in five people with alopecia has a family member who also has it.
A new study has found that a rheumatoid arthritis drug, called tofacitinib citrate, completely restored scalp hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, facial, armpit, groin and other hair for a 25-year-old with alopecia universalis. This patient also had plaque psoriasis, which the drug also helped. Researchers have suggested using a cream form of the medication to treat alopecia areata.
Since hair loss is a visible condition, there are ways make it less obvious and help your self-image. Some people opt to use a wig or hairpiece, which can look natural. For smaller patches of hair loss, there are products that can fill in the area with your hair color to mask the contrast. Also, skillfully applied makeup can help with eyebrows.