Reference Index - Disease & Conditions

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Alopecia areata with pustules
Alopecia areata with pustules


Alopecia totalis - back view of the head
Alopecia totalis - back view of the head


Alopecia totalis - front view of the head
Alopecia totalis - front view of the head


Alopecia, under treatment
Alopecia, under treatment


Alopecia areata

Definition:

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss.



Alternative Names:

Alopecia totalis; Alopecia universalis



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia . Alopecia areata may sometimes occur with autoimmune diseases .

Forms of alopecia include:

  • Alopecia totalis -- complete loss of scalp hair
  • Alopecia universalis -- total loss of all body hair


Symptoms:
  • Loss of all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis)
  • Loss of all scalp hair (alopecia totalis)
  • Roundish patches of hair loss on the head
  • Smooth, hairless scalp in the affected areas

Hairs that look like exclamation points are sometimes seen at the edges of a bald patch.



Signs and tests:

On occasion, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Several blood tests may be done, because alopecia areata may occur with autoimmune conditions.



Treatment:

No fully effective treatments are available. Typical therapy includes:

  • Steroid injection under the skin surface
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Ultraviolet light therapy

Irritating drugs may be applied to hairless areas to cause the hair to regrow.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:

  • Alopecia areata at a young age
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Long-term alopecia


Complications:

Permanent hair loss is a possible complication of alopecia areata.



Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are concerned about hair loss.



Prevention:




Review Date: 10/3/2008
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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