Hair loss has many causes. We have discussed these in our blogs: causes of hair loss are age, genetics, pollution and lifestyles, sometimes it is a result of diseases of the scalp and skin. In this article, I will discuss the disease called Alopecia Areata, which causes bald spots and leads to hair loss in other parts of the body as well. So it is important to go to a doctor and have a diagnosis done if bald patches appear, to find out if the cause is normal loss of hair because of age or because of alopecia areata.
How does it occur? Earlier it was thought it spread from person to person but research has shown that the causes are much deeper. It is now know that Alopecia Areata is a disease of the immunity system of the body. This autoimmune disorder occurs when the natural disease fighting system of the body develops antibodies against hair follicles. These attack the hair follicles thinking they are foreign bodies and destroys them, leading to hair loss and can lead to total baldness if it is not corrected. Left on its own, the hair cannot re-grow and the hair damage is permanent and spreads to other parts of the body.
Alopecia is thus associated with baldness though it is a much deeper disease. It is not a happy condition, as bald patches on the scalp are difficult to hide. An early diagnosis and treatment is therefore essential. At first small patches are visible, which spread slowly. If you have been suffering from hair loss, take the advice of a doctor as it could be alopecia areta.
Types of Alopecia
Alopecia takes several forms. When small bald patches appear on the scalp, it is called alopecia areta. If it leads to complete baldness, it is called Alopecia Totalis. Sometimes it spreads to the body, causing hair loss on other parts of the body, it is referred to as Alopecia Universalis. If the hair loss is limited to the face, it is called Alopecia Barbae.
Symptoms of Alopecia
When the following symptoms start appearing, you should rush to a see a doctor. Timely action can stop the spread of the disease.
The most common symptom of alopecia is when loss of hair is noticed. Small bald patches are seen on the patient’s head. You will see hair on the pillow when you wake up in the morning, or in the shower when you are taking a bath. The scalp becomes sensitive and itchy or will have a burning sensation. The patient feels something crawling on the scalp and on the body. When the patient touches or scratches the scalp, hair comes off. The bald patches which initially appeared small, spread rapidly on the head. Other parts of the body are also affected: watch out for hair loss on your eyelashes and beard as well.
As I have mentioned, it is important to see a doctor immediately when bald patches start appearing. Alopecia can be treated by simple changes in lifestyles and following simple natural remedies. Or medicines may be prescribed. Alopecia can be treated with medicated creams and shampoos. Steroid creams and injections can also be prescribed. Minoxidil solution, medicated shampoos or laser therapy are used to fight this condition.
Patients can introduce some on their own, such as making changes to the diet. For instance, going vegetarian and avoiding animal sources of food is advised. A long term solution is to correct the immunity system of the body. This can be done by prescribing amino acid supplements. In addition, patients are advised to follow regular lifestyles and regular diets. The patient also tries to reduce stress by changing lifestyles. Relaxation therapies are advised. Regular sleeping habits are very important in treating Alopecia.
It is also important to recognise the risk factors that lead to alopecia. The most common risk factor is genetics – if it runs in your family chances are that you will develop it too. Apart from that, patients have to be careful about other imposed risk factors such as:
Hair care: Alopecia is sometimes induced by hair care and styling methods. If products with harsh chemicals are used, the body may react to them. Ingredients in shampoos, conditioners, hair colours must be studied carefully – I have always advocated the use of natural and mild shampoos in my blogs. Excessive hair styling such as using heat based hair dryers and styling techniques can also increase stress on your scalp and induce Alopecia.
Stress: A common factor is stress. It is very important to follow health lifetsyles and reduce stress in one’s life as it may trigger alopecia. The condition may also be developed if you use certain medicines or sometimes by extreme weather.
Infections: Alopecia areata can also result as a result of infections. The body develops antibodies to fight the infections and these antibodies may damage the scalp and the hair as well.
Vitamin D deficiency: Correcting vitamin D deficiency is known to be helpful if correcting alopecia symptoms.
A clinical examination will determine Alopecia symptoms. Scalp examination and follicular status will also be done. If the alopecia is just beginning, it can be treated by prescribing amino acids and supplements for nutrition of the hair. Natural remedies can be used. I have already described remedies using natural products that soothe the scalp and nourish the scalp.
If you are victim of alopecia, you may need to cover your head as people will see the bald patches. The condition can therefore be very embarrassing. But with simple remedies and medication, the condition can be cured. An early diagnosis is important because the sooner the condition is treated the less will be the harm and the sooner will the disease be controlled. For complete diagnosis and advice, visit an experienced doctor as soon as you notice hair fall.