Our hair tends to fall off while we wash them, dry them or brush them. It is normal to see some strands of hair on your pillow or towel or hairbrush. The hair is always in a growing stage, and a person generally loses 50-100strands of hair per day, which grows back. However, if you are seeing excessive hair falling off your scalp, and its coming off in clumps, it’s a situation to be alarmed about.
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system starts attacking the hair follicles, causing them to fall off leaving smooth round or oval patches on your scalp. The disease is most common in scalp, but it can happen in any hair-bearing part of body, viz. eyebrows, eyelashes, forearms, underarms or genitals. The hair usually regrows, but it can fall off again. It can take a long time for a person to get totally free from the effects of the disease, or it may sometimes never lose the effect.
The most common symptom of the disease is excessive hair loss. The hair loss occurs in patches which can be of different shapes and sizes. Your hair may start getting thin and would be like an exclamation mark, thin and pointed at the base on scalp. Changes in your nails can be the first signs of developing the disease. Your nails may start pitting in the sides and develop white spots and become thin and brittle.
If you are facing any such symptoms, it is time you visit your dermatologist.
Alopecia Areata can be triggered due to certain genetic and environmental reasons. However, it is very rare for a person to inherit the disease from his parents, because it is a polygenic disease, that means it is caused only if both the parents have contributed the genes causing the disorder to the child.
It can also be caused due to certain other autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid or vitiligo. Alternatively, a person may develop these autoimmune disorders due to suffering from alopecia areata.
The disease is a complicated one, and it is difficult to predict what triggered the condition.
The disease requires an in-depth diagnosis to be carried out, because the condition may look like alopecia areata, but it could be something else. The doctor will take some of your hair to check how easily they come off and to examine their structure. The diagnosis may be confirmed by a scalp biopsy. The doctor may also run you through some other medical tests to check for presence of any other autoimmune disease.
Alopecia Areata Treatment
The hair generally regrows within 6-12months of falling off, so at times the problem is subsided without a treatment. But there is always a chance of hair falling off again. Infact, there can be situation where another patch of hair will fall while one is regrowing hair. So, going for a treatment is the best option to control the disease, enhance the hair regrowth and prevent the hair from falling off further.
There are many topical and oral treatments available which aim at controlling the activities of immune system, so that it does not affect the hair follicles. One of the best treatment available is corticosteroids. These are available in form of creams, lotions, gels and pills. The patient will have to apply the lotion, cream or gel on the affected areas. It is also available in the form of injections, which can be given as shots. The doctor will apply the injection on the affected areas. The shots are given every 3-6weeks and the hair starts growing back after 4weeks of stopping the shots. These shots give the best results. However, doctors avoid giving corticosteroid pills to the patients owing to its serious side-effects. The pills are prescribed only in most severe cases.
Other topical hair treatments include minoxidil, anthralin and diphencyprone which aim to alter skin’s immune function. Minoxidil can be used by any person, adult or children and has to be applied on the affected areas twice a day for at least 3months. Anthralin is used for short contact therapy. It is a tar like substance that is to be applied and left for 20-60 minutes and washed off after the stipulated time period. Diphencyprone works by causing allergic reaction in order to trick the immune system. It may take 3months before the hair starts regrowing.
The doctors usually prescribe a combination of two or more treatments to achieve fast and better results. However, the effects of treatment differ for every person. It all depends on how the patient’s immune system responds to the treatment. So, prescribing a treatment requires great precision. We have this precision that is required and we prescribe the treatments only after a careful diagnosis. We also take care that the treatments have minimal side effects and that they stay effective for a long time.
Although, hair loss does not affect your health in any way and you can easily carry on with your routine activities. But, in our society, where hair is treated as a sign of youth and good health, hair loss can often lower down the confidence of a person and lead the person to stress, anxiety and depression. So, to be saved from such psychological conditions, you must get a treatment if you are faced with the disease. You can also join support groups, to keep your confidence level up. Coverups and headpieces are a good option until the treatment starts working.
There is no cure for the disease as yet, and you don’t have a permanent redressal as of now. But the Alopecia Areata treatments can help you a long way. So, book your appointment soon for an effective treatment.