Closeup of pencil eraser and black alopecia text. Alopecia. Pencil with eraser.

If you’ve been diagnosed with alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disorder that results in random hair loss, you may be wondering what the causes and treatment are.  Here are some answers to frequently-asked questions about alopecia areata that may help:

What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disease.  These are diseases in which the immune system, which normally protects the body from invasion by viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks itself.  In the case of alopecia areata, it attacks the hair follicles.  When the hair follicles are attacked, hair on the scalp, face or body can fall out, usually in round patches about the size of a quarter.  The amount of hair loss can vary from small to extensive, but complete hair loss is rare.

Who Is Most Likely To Get Alopecia Areata?
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, over 6.6 million Americans have the disorder.  It affects both sexes, all ages and every ethnic background.  Having a close relative who developed the disorder before age 30 can increase your risk for developing it and it is possible to inherit alopecia areata from a parent who suffers from it.

Is Hair Loss A Symptom Of Any Serious Diseases?
Except for the fact that alopecia areata can cause serious psychological and social problems, it is not itself a life-threatening disease; and people with alopecia areata normally do not have other autoimmune diseases.  There is, however, a higher incidence of thyroid disease, allergies, asthma and atopic eczema in people with alopecia areata.

What Causes Alopecia Areata?
In alopecia areata, white blood cells attack cells growing in hair follicles, which causes the follicles to shrink and slow down the production of hair.  Researchers don’t know why this happens to certain people but it’s thought that a combination of genes predisposes them to the disease, and some environmental factor or an illness or even stress can trigger it.

What Are The Treatments For The Disorder?
There is no cure for alopecia areata though there are some medications like topical minoxidil and injected corticosteroids that can alleviate some of the symptoms.  A hair and skin care professional can help you find the right medication or combination of medications to help you.  You must also concentrate on minimizing the discomfort that can be caused by alopecia areata.  Wear sunblock on exposed skin.  Wear scarves and caps.  Wear sunglasses to minimize exposure to dust and dirt if eyelashes are missing.  Apply ointment to the insides of nostrils to keep them moisturized if nose hair is missing.

Is Alopecia Areata Being Researched?
Though there is no imminent cure for alopecia areata, there is ongoing research into hair follicle development, understanding stem cell biology and finding the genes associated with the development of alopecia areata so that some day, there will be either a complete cure or a fool-proof treatment that works for everyone afflicted with the disorder.

If you suffer from alopecia areata, get help.  Call Parker Trichology Centre in Carrollton, TX at (214) 307-6200 or visit to schedule an appointment and to get more information about alopecia areata and other types of hair loss disorders.

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