THE MORE YOU UNDERSTAND ABOUT ALOPECIA AREATA, THE BETTER YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH THE UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF THE DISEASE.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune hair loss disorder, which means the body mistakenly attacks random hair follicles, signaling them not to grow. Test your knowledge and understanding of alopecia areata with these 10 true-or-false questions.
1. You can “catch” alopecia areata.
False. Alopecia areata is known as an autoimmune disease because your own body sends a signal to attack itself. In the case of alopecia areata, your body’s immune system is mistakenly attacking your hair follicles, so that they will not grow hair. We know that alopecia areata is not spread by an air-borne or blood-borne bacteria or virus.
2. Alopecia areata will cause patchy, unpredictable hair loss.
True. Currently, research into the autoimmune disease has not found a reason why this occurs and has also not produced a predictable pattern for the disease. The immune system attacks only some hair follicles, but not all, so hair loss results unpredictably in random patches for no known reason and usually not all over the head (which is called alopecia totalis).
3. There is no cure for alopecia areata.
True. There is no known cure for alopecia areata because there is no known cause of the condition. Some people respond to different treatments, but many don’t. Treatment is individual, although doctors have discovered a slight genetic component to alopecia areata and also have found that stress plays a factor in hair loss, so usually, some stress mitigation techniques will be advised.
4. At any time alopecia areata can resolve itself and hair can grow back normally.
True. Just as suddenly as hair loss began, hair follicles can get the signal to grow again and hair growth can resume as if nothing had ever happened. Sometimes the disease can progress and include more bald patches, or sometimes new patches of hair loss may form while others grow in.
5. There is nothing you can do about the way your hair looks when you have alopecia areata.
False. There is a lot you can do to hide your hair loss. If patches are minimal, check with your hairstylist to find out if a different hairstyle or a hat or scarf can hide them. If patches are large or in very obvious parts of your head, you might consider a visit to a hair replacement specialist, who can design a hairpiece that uses your existing healthy hair and integrates it with replacement hair to cover just the bald spots.
6. Alopecia areata is a disease of the hair.
False. It is a disease of the skin because hair follicles are in the skin. But it is not characterized by rashes, hives or itching; instead, it is characterized by hair loss only and bald patches are usually smooth.
7. There is a test to determine if you have alopecia areata.
False. Alopecia areata is one of those diseases that are difficult to diagnose and for which a diagnosis is determined based on the absence of any other disease first. Usually, patients are healthy in every other way, except for the random, patchy hair loss. In the absence of any other condition or illness, alopecia areata will be the likely diagnosis.
8. Hair extensions are a good way to hide bald patches.
False. While hair extensions do extend the length and could be used to hide bald patches, they are usually not recommended when you are currently experiencing hair loss, because extensions are attached to existing hair and can put further stress on hair follicles.
9. A dermatologist is the correct doctor to see about alopecia areata.
True. A dermatologist is a medical doctor of the skin and an excellent first step in determining whether you have alopecia areata, because he or she is very skilled in diagnosing hair loss conditions through a health history consultation, a scalp examination, and possibly even a scalp biopsy. A dermatologist can prescribe treatment and also refer you to other appropriate medical specialists, if necessary, to rule out other diseases.
10. Alopecia areata is found in more kids than adults and more females than males.
False. Alopecia targets no one in particular, and cases are just as likely to be found in children as in adults and in women as in men.
Now that you understand the true, unpredictable nature of alopecia areata, you can focus more on living with the disease rather than trying to cure it, or if you do not have alopecia areata, you can empathize with someone suffering from this random type of hair loss.
For more, visit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation HERE.