Alopecia areata hair loss is not something everyone knows about. While most of us have the basic required information on hair loss and efficient ways of treating it, alopecia is a mystery, even for scientific researchers. That is why the only ones who know about this disorder are the ones dealing with it or have someone around them with alopecia.
As scary as it might sound, alopecia has no specific symptom. You cannot predict it. It comes, causes small patches of baldness on your head, happens fast, and it has no root cure. But it could also go away with no apparent reason and then come back after a while or leave you for good.
So as you can see, alopecia areata hair loss does not follow a routine and it might traumatize anyone who has to suffer from it. Alopecia can affect self-confidence and cause other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, social embarrassment, anger, or even grief.
But having alopecia does not mean we are utterly helpless. There are various ways to maintain a beautiful exterior by using wigs, false eyelashes, nail implants, scalp micropigmentation and other effective cosmetic ways.
In the following article, we have gathered information on what exactly is alopecia areata and what are the alternative cosmetic treatments for baldness caused by it.
What is alopecia areata?
The first thing anybody should know about alopecia is that it is an autoimmune disorder, like multiple sclerosis (MS). While in MS the immune system targets nerves and the brain, in alopecia it attacks the hair follicles and considers them as an enemy for the body. That is why hair loss happens.
The second most important thing to know about this disease is the fact that having alopecia does not always end in complete baldness. In most cases, the hair loss patch is just as big as a coin. Keep in mind that this disorder has little to do with stress. While stress can cause hair loss, especially in one spot, scientific researches have found little connection between alopecia and stress.
The last but not least important thing to know about alopecia areata is that like most autoimmune disorders, it occurs only before the age of 30. Notably, alopecia occurs in all races and both genders. And although the disease is not hereditary, according to the National Institute of Health one in five people with alopecia, have someone in their family facing the same condition.
It might be interesting to know: The term alopecia means “baldness” in latin, and the term areata means “occurring in patches.”
What is alopecia areata for nails?
Alopecia can happen to the fingernails or toenails as well. Sometimes one or two fingernails and in some extreme cases all fingers are involved; all 10 or 20. Alopecia for nails is not common but it could occur in extreme patients with hair alopecia. It could also affect the nails alone. In cases like that, the patient has no sign of baldness, but the nails will lose their firm look and structure.
As a solution for the nail appearance, enhancement is recommended, but not immediately after the symptoms show up. Alopecia areata is as unpredictable for nails as it is for hairs. The condition can change. Therefore until there is no guarantee that the nail structure would remain the same, do not try to remedy its appearance by polishing, manicure, or nail implants.
Other types of alopecia areata
Alopecia is not common but approximately 1 percent of any population has people dealing with this disorder.
In most cases, alopecia areata hair disorder shows partial baldness as we mentioned. Sometimes it ends in complete baldness which is called Alopecia Totalis.
And only in extreme cases, it leads to hair loss in the entire body. This condition is called Alopecia Universalis. Alopecia Universalis means losing eyebrows, eyelashes, body hair, and even the thin layer of hair we all have all over the body, along with the head hair.
Diffuse alopecia areata is another type of this disorder that in it, instead of losing hair, the patient faces sudden hair thinning.
And there is also ophiasis alopecia areata which means hair loss in some parts of the head. Instead of hair loss in small patches, the patient suffers it in a band shape around the head, at one side, or in the back of the head.
These types of alopecia areata disease are rare and according to patients, they often get mistaken as cancer patients in society. Especially when alopecia comes with other symptoms of any immune system, such as asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus.
What are alopecia areata causes?
There is no certain cause for alopecia areata. Generally, autoimmune disorder happens with little certain cause and attack fast. It means your immune system assumes some part of your body as an external threatening factor and attacks itself. In alopecia, the immune system thinks of hair follicles as threat and acts on exterminating them.
In general, there are 4 main causes considered for alopecia areata. It means if someone has alopecia areata disorder, it is possibly out of these reasons, it also could be some other unknown factor behind it. Nobody can be certain.
For men, alopecia usually means complete hair loss and for women, it shows as hair thinning.
- DHT or dihydrotestosterone is a hormone that comes from testosterone. DHT can bind testosterone to hair follicles. Any unbalance in that, can lead to hair loss or hair thinning. Since testosterone is the male sex hormone, they face hair loss heavier than women.
- Another hormone-related condition is PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome for women. In this condition, the body produces so much estrogen that some of it converts to testosterone and ends in hair loss.
Even though there is not enough evidence that relates stress to alopecia, it is a known fact that stress alongside other reasons can accelerate hair loss.
There is another type of alopecia called telogen effluvium that external factors can speed up the hair loss in a period. Taking certain medications, extreme stress, going through pregnancy and childbirth, lifestyle changes, heavy diets, and in some cases physical trauma are all considered telogen effluvium.
Low iron or lack of vitamin D could be a cause for alopecia areata. Keep in mind that NOT all hair loss due to a lack of mineral resources is alopecia.
4- Thyroid imbalances
The thyroid is responsible for metabolism-related hormones. Either an overactive thyroid or a low one can trigger alopecia areata hair disorder. Unexplained weight changes, very high or very low energy, and menstruation changes in women are some of the thyroid imbalance symptoms.
What are alopecia areata symptoms?
Alopecia areata symptoms can be very explicit: hair loss. The main questions are where and how much. Keep in mind that no matter where it is, alopecia hair loss comes with no scarring, redness, or skin rashes.
Below we have gathered a list of different types of hair loss caused by alopecia.
- Patches of hair loss: If you see a bald round patch on your scalp the size of a coin or larger, consider visiting a doctor. This is one of the most common signs of having alopecia areata.
- Beard bald spots: Another symptom is a cessation of facial hair for men at some spots. If you could grow a beard before and it has been bald at some spots, it could be a sign of alopecia. In most cases, alopecia in facial hair is temporary and the hair would grow back again.
- Band of hair loss: Though it is more common in women, men can experience hair loss in the shape of a band, at one side of their head. It also could be at the back of the head.
- Widespread hair loss over the scalp: In some extreme cases, hair loss occurs all over the scalp, leaving the patient with thin strands of hair. There are a few efficient treatments for widespread hair loss but before trying any of them, consult with your dermatologist.
- Eyebrow and eyelash hair loss: Sometimes a partial or the whole eyelashes or eyebrow hairs fall out due to alopecia. It could grow back in time but in some extreme cases, the changes are irreversible.
- Red or brittle nails: Nail’s changes happen to 10 to 20 percent of alopecia patients. It usually happens alongside hair loss, mainly because what is attacking hair follicles can damage the nail’s structure as well. In some cases, the shift shows up as redness with a feel of sandpaper, and sometimes they become so brittle they cut in half easily.
What are the best alopecia areata treatments?
Despite the fact that alopecia areata has no permanent cure, it is treatable. If you visit a dermatologist and the diagnosis is alopecia areata, then there are few options as treatment. Before choosing any of them, the dermatologist considers your age, the intensity of hair loss, and the place it occurs.
For children under the age of 10, medications such as minoxidil are a good option. They can also apply corticosteroids on their bald spots as topical ointments with an expert’s consultancy.
For hair loss in the shape of small patches of hair, corticosteroids are still effective. In some cases, it could be injected under the skin in bald areas. Anthralin is also a medication that has a good reputation for regrowing hair, only if you can tolerate the side effects like skin irritation. And let’s not forget that minoxidil is always a good option.
For patients with eyebrow and eyelash hair loss, usually, the treatments are cosmetic. Semi-permanent eyebrows can give you a natural look. False eyelashes or a little makeup can cover up well. Even wearing glasses can help. But there is also a medication for this: Bimatoprost is an FDA approved medication that reportedly can help regrow eyelashes and eyebrows.
And finally, for widespread hair loss, medications are useful mostly, such as methotrexate, corticosteroid, and JAK inhibitors. But there is also another treatment called Contact or topical immunotherapy. This treatment includes applying a chemical ointment on the head. It takes place in a dermatology clinic with an expert and lasts about 6 months. Studies show that this treatment can regrow hair in 60 to 70 percent of cases.
Scalp micropigmentation for alopecia areata
- If it has been a long time since your hair loss has started and you don’t see any sign of improvement … or …
- If you don’t want to face the hardship and side effects of using medications … or …
- if the hair loss is irreversible and other treatments did not work out …
Then it could be time to think about cosmetic treatments. Scalp micropigmentation is one of the best methods for bald spots or cases with complete baldness. The latter is for men mostly.
In scalp micropigmentation, natural pigments are applied under the dermis layer of the skin. It gives the patient a shaved natural look. Scalp Micropigmentation can also be useful for women with patches of baldness. The pigments cover up the bald spot and the skin could hide underneath.
Keep in mind that scalp micropigmentation is not a domestic method. So before taking any step regarding SMP, consult with an expert considering your skin condition and do thorough research on what are the before and aftercare or the side effects of SMP.
Regardless of the fact that all people can be beautiful in their own way, Losing hair could mean losing beauty, self-confidence, self-assurance to communicate among people, and losing positive body image for some individuals. However, Alopecia areata hair loss is not the end of the road. There are multiple ways to replace the hair you lost. So look them up and try them out.
If you are currently dealing with Alopecia Areata and are looking into SMP, make sure to contact us for a free consultation session.