Alopecia areata is a disease condition in which the hair loss occurs in patches. It is an autoimmune disorder which develops when body’s own immune system goes haywire. The immune cells of the body attack and consequently damage the hair follicles, leading to hair loss. At times this hair loss involves entire scalp and even the whole body. It is then called as alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis respectively.
What are the various causes of hair loss in alopecia areata?
So far it has been ascertained that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder. The component of body’s own immune system wrongly attacks its hair follicles and damages them. The follicles shrink in size and cease to produce hair. As a result there is hair loss. But what causes the immune system to make this mistake in the first place is yet a mystery.
However it has been observed that alopecia areata runs in families. Even those who have a family history of other autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes mellitus, tend to have this condition. This observation has led to the conclusion of genetics as a likely cause of alopecia areata. However scientists also believe that certain environmental factors are also needed to trigger this condition in persons with genetic predisposition for it.
What are the symptoms of alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is characterized by hair loss. This hair loss occurs in coin sized patches which are generally several centimeters or at times less. These patches can be one or many in number. In alopecia areata, the hair loss often occurs on the scalp but might also involve other parts of the body such as beard, eyebrows, eyelashes and other hair bearing parts of the body.
However hair loss can occur due to several other reasons as well therefore mere hair loss is not sufficient to diagnose this condition.
Rarely the hair loss is extensive and cause hair to fall out from entire scalp or even entire body of a person.
It is also seen that the hair loss due to alopecia areata is spontaneous. The hair may even grow back at variable period and then they may again fall out.
Is there any gender preference for alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is seen in both men and women, but it is more noticeable in men. Men tend to have hair loss from their beard, moustache, eyebrows, eyelashes, scalp, chest, and back. On the other hand women with reason unknown as yet it is found that women are more likely to have alopecia areata than men. This hair loss is found on the scalp as well as on eyebrows and eyelashes.
Is there any age preference for alopecia areata?
It is found that alopecia areata can occur in children as well. Majority people who are diagnosed with alopecia areata have reported of having their first hair loss before thirty years of age. Children with alopecia areata are found to have in addition nail defects e.g. pitting or even lesions. Such defects are not seen in the adult patients. Also as per the National Alopecia Areata Foundation children below five years of age don’t have significant emotional impact from this condition. However after age five years hair loss can be an emotional trauma for the young children as they become self conscious.
What are the different types of alopecia areata?
Depending upon the extent of hair fall alopecia areata is divided into various types. Each type involves a slightly varied prognosis and treatment. The various types of alopecia areata are:-
Patchy alopecia areata- In this type the hair falls out in one or more round patches on scalp or body.
Alopecia totalis- In this type the hair falls out from the entire scalp.
Alopecia universalis- In this type hair falls out from entire scalp along with other body hair including face, back, chest and even pubic hair.
Diffuse alopecia areata- In this type there is sudden hair thinning on entire scalp instead of one area.
Ophiasis alopecia- In this type the hair fall out in a band all along the sides of the scalp and lower back of head.
What is Alopecia Areata Treatment?
Alopecia areata can be diagnosed by clinical examination. Scalp biopsy can be done to confirm diagnosis if needed. In some cases blood tests are done if other autoimmune disorders are suspected. Once diagnosed, prognosis of alopecia areata is unpredictable. It depends on factors like:-
- Early age of developing symptoms.
- Widespread hair loss
- Changes in nail
- Family history
- Presence of other autoimmune conditions
General management of alopecia areata includes measures such as:-
- Use of wigs, hair accessories, hair styling, makeup, eyebrow stencils, eyelashes extension etc.
- Avoiding food items that are known to aggravate inflammation in the body. These include processed food, high sugar food and alcohol.
- Having food items known to decrease inflammation in the body. These include fruits and vegetables especially blueberries, broccoli, beets, nuts, seeds and lean meats.
- Having a balanced diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean meat for good overall health.
- Protecting the exposed bald spots from sun by use of sunscreen with right SPF.
- Avoiding use of chemical based shampoos.
Homeopatic Treatment of Treatment of Alopecia Areata
There is no cure for alopecia areata in conventional system of medicine. For some patients the hair loss gets even worse even when they are on treatment. On the other hand homeopathic system of medicine provides a safe and effective solution to this menace.
There are many specific medicines known that yield great results in the treatment of alopecia areata. Also in some other cases constitutional medicines give better results and prevent relapse of hair loss. For this the trained homeopathic physician takes a detailed case history of the patient. He elicits symptoms from both mental and physical sphere of the patient as well as the past history and family history of the patient to find out the exact cause of the disease. Once elicited the medicine most similar to the manifestation of the disease condition is prescribed. It is observed that the medicine thus prescribed is the best homeopathic medicine in every individual case of alopecia areata.
Some of the commonly indicated homeopathic medicines for alopecia areata are:-
ACIDUM FLUORICUM– It is indicated for alopecia areata in patients who are very warm blooded. Such patients feel very uncomfortable in warm room and from warm applications. They also have a tendency for chronic and destructive processes like bedsores, ulcerations, varicose veins and caries of bones.
LYCOPODIUM CLAVATUM– It is suited when hair fall is associated with abdominal, respiratory or urinary affections. The symptoms aggravate between 4pm-8pm.Patient as a person is dominating, greedy, miserly and coward in nature. He has craving for sweets and warm drinks.
PHOSPHOROUS– It is indicated in alopecia areata where the hair falls out in large bunches. The patient as a person is tall, thin with radiant skin. He is oversensitive to external influences such as light, odor, electrical changes and thunderstorms. He desire chilled drinks even in winters.
SELENIUM METALLICUM– It is indicated when the hair falls out from eyebrows, beard and genitals. There is great debility in general experienced by the patient which gets worse by heat.
VINCA MINOR– It is indicated when hair falls out and is replaced by grey hair. Also, there are bald spots that are covered with short wooly hair.
Thus alopecia areata is a chronic autoimmune disorder resulting in patchy hair loss from scalp and even other parts of the body. Its cause has not been ascertained as yet, but most likely attributed to genetics. Due to uncertainty regarding cause, prevention of alopecia areata is difficult.
Once this disease condition develops the prognosis is different for each patient. Some patients have bouts of hair fall just once, whereas others experience bouts of hair fall throughout their lives. Some have full recovery of hair growth while others may not.
Alopecia Areata can be a traumatizing experience as it affects the self image of the sufferer. Many patients with alopecia areata end up having depression. What is worse is there is no cure for this condition in the most popular system of medicine i.e. allopathy. At times the condition of the patient gets worse despite taking treatment.
Homeopathy system of medicine which is thoroughly scientific and based on rock solid laws provides safe and effective solution to this problem. The constitutional medicine helps in hair regrowth, avoids relapses of hair loss and even cure other chronic conditions coexisting in a patient at the time of treatment.