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Alopecia Areata - Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Diet

Updated on November 28, 2013

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that affects a specific area of the scalp or in patches. As this can be recurrent, the person affected can have specific reactions from this condition that cannot only be physically distressing but also emotionally. This also results for the person to be self conscious and even result to low self esteem problems. Alopecia areata affects all people with no specific race and age, very unfortunate for the young too. Alopecia areata is not a condition to be feared for this is not contagious. Basically, the condition is caused by our own immune system or simply an autoimmune disorder.

The affected age group tends to be adults aging 30 to 60 years. It can also affect toddlers but it is rare phenomenon to them. This shall be discussed below.

Alopecia Areata Pictures

Symptoms

This hair problem is characterized by bald patches that are usually round or oval in form. The skin when touched shall feel smooth and clean. Here are the enumerated characteristics of alopecia areata:

  • The hair loss can be coin-sized and can be more than one patch.
  • There are times that involvement of the eyebrows, eyelashes, beards or other hair-bearing sites occurs.
  • Few short hairs grow or stay in or at the edges of the bald spots.
  • Generalized thinning of the hair is noted.
  • There is also a possibility of a widespread hair loss (alopecia totalis). While there is also hair loss of the entire body called alopecia universalis, a more severe form of alopecia.
  • Affectation of the nails (fingernails and toenails). They may develop white spots or lines and may become rough, thing and split up.
  • Presence of yellow dots or spots is a distinguishing feature of the skin and hair problem. It has been reported that a percent of 95 have this presenting symptom.

Causes

This condition is considered idiopathic, from an unknown cause. But there are factors that play a role in the development and in preceding alopecia areata. These are the following:

Heredity - there has been strong evidence that genes play a role in the development of alopecia areata. As history presents that there have been two or more affected members of the family, high chances of acquiring the disease will follow. There has been consideration that these people might contain alopecia areata genes.

Autoimmune diseases - this is where the body itself acts on the normal functioning of our system and altering them. The body may tend to attack its own hair follicles and might suppress the hair growth.

Allergies or atopic dermatitis - these conditions also put someone at risk for developing alopecia areata.

Trauma, illness, emotional stress, and pregnancy - these have been pointed out for causing alopecia areata. This is to be believed to cause for alopecia areata.

Treatment

Medical treatments for this condition are truly needed especially when the case has come to a point of severity or extensive. The extent of the affected area is to be analyzed so proper treatment shall be provided.

The following are the drugs recommended for this condition:

  • Topical corticosteroid - This can help in decreasing the inflammatory process thus impeding the immune system to act or attack its own normal processes.
  • Immunotherapy - This can be in a form of topical.
  • Anthralin - The action is to create and generate free radicals, which can be immunosuppressive in action.
  • Minoxidil - Those with extensive alopecia areata usually receive favorable results from this drug. Vasodilators are also recommended by doctors for this can have hair growth effects. This can be in topical form.
  • Systemic treatments - This would include prednisone that is said to help in stopping the progression of alopecia areata.
  • As the condition is not controllable, the use of PUVA as treatment is provided. This would present photochemotherapy. This is only done in severe cases.

Diet

The diet for this condition would aim to decrease the inflammatory process. Since this is an autoimmune disorder, the condition can be treated when one can follow the strict or recommended diet for alopecia areata.

  • Reduce intake of inflammatory foods such as: non-animal proteins. These would include nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Meat with saturated fats can promote inflammation and should limit intake of these.
  • Reduce intake of all dairy products. These products contain protein that is known to irritate our immune system. Have other food sources for protein such as tofu, soy foods, and nut milks.
  • Less intake of polyunsaturated fats such a sunflower, corn oils, margarine and trans-fats.
  • Have healthy fats. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids that are also good for the heart. These would include salmon, trout, tuna, sardines and herring.
  • Increase intake of antioxidant. This can fight off inflammation or guide to have normal immune functioning. Fruits and vegetables are best food choices for this.

Alopecia Areata in Children

It has been mentioned that alopecia areata can affect the young. This is because the disease may start or may begin in childhood. Usually, the child shall experience hair falls and have round patches too. Most of the children acquire few bald patches while others may have severe hair loss. Again, children may acquire this condition because of an underlying autoimmune disease. The mechanism of the autoimmune disease is that it attacks one’s own body functions. Consulting the doctor is very necessary so that untoward results from the disease can be avoided. The doctor’s advice should be taken and carried out as to not add more problems in the child’s life.

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