Alopecia areata is baldness or hair loss caused by an autoimmune disease. In alopecia areata, the immune system attacks and damages the hair roots causing hair loss and baldness. A patchy bald scalp is one of the signs of this condition.
Alopecia areata occurs when the place where hair grows (hair follicles) shrinks and stops producing hair. This then causes hair loss and baldness . This condition can occur gradually or suddenly.
In addition to causing bald spots on the scalp, alopecia areata can also cause baldness in one area as a whole. This type of alopecia areata is called alopecia areata totalis . In addition, there is also alopecia areata that occurs in all areas of the body with hair, or called alopecia areata universalis .
Alopecia areata can happen to anyone, both men and women. However, alopecia areata generally occurs before the sufferer is 30 years old. This condition also most often affects the hair on the scalp.
Causes of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles ( autoimmune disease ). This condition causes hair production to stop so that hair falls out and eventually becomes bald.
It is not yet known for sure why the immune system attacks and damages hair follicles. However, this condition is suspected to be triggered by viral infection , trauma, hormonal changes, and physical or psychological stress.
Risk factors for alopecia areata
Although the exact cause is not yet known, there are several factors and conditions that can increase a person's risk of alopecia areata, namely:
- Having a parent or close family member suffering from alopecia areata or another autoimmune disease
- Suffer from chromosomal disorders, such as Down syndrome
- Suffer from vitamin D deficiency , asthma, atopic dermatitis , lupus, vitiligo , or thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto's disease and Graves ' disease
Symptoms of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata can attack any age, but is more often experienced by children, teenagers, or young adults. This condition can cause baldness or hair loss in some parts of the body, such as the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair, armpits, pubic hair, mustache, or beard.
The main symptom of alopecia areata is hair loss or baldness that is not accompanied by pain. Like other autoimmune disease conditions, baldness and hair loss experienced by sufferers of alopecia areata can be recurrent.
In addition, there are several other signs that can occur when a person experiences alopecia areata, namely:
- Baldness with a circular or patchy pattern that appears in one or several places that were previously covered with hair
- Baldness occurs at the bottom, sides, or around the back of the head ( ophiasis alopecia )
Generally, hair loss in alopecia areata patients can grow back on its own. However, in some sufferers, baldness can be permanent so that the hair does not grow back.
Nails with alopecia areata also often experience changes, such as nails appearing reddish, indented, or becoming rough and thin so that they split easily.
When should you go to the doctor?
Check with your doctor if you experience baldness or unusual hair loss. Early detection can help you find out the cause of hair loss. That way, the doctor can perform treatment actions that are appropriate to the cause and condition you are experiencing.
Diagnosis of Alopecia Areata
To diagnose alopecia areata, the doctor will ask the patient's symptoms and health history. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination, including examining areas of the body that normally have hair, as well as the patient's nails.
To establish the diagnosis and ascertain the cause of hair loss, it is necessary to carry out supporting examinations, such as:
A biopsy is performed by taking a sample from the scalp to be examined with the help of a microscope. A biopsy is performed to detect cell and tissue abnormalities in the scalp and determine the cause of hair loss or baldness.
This test is performed if it is suspected that the patient is suffering from an autoimmune disease or other diseases that can cause baldness and hair loss. Some of the things that will be evaluated and detected during the blood test are:
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA)
- C-reactive protein
- Sedimentation of erythrocytes
- Thyroid hormones
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
Alopecia areata treatment
There is no treatment that can cure alopecia areata. Even so, there are treatments that can relieve symptoms, prevent recurrence, and help sufferers adapt and accept their condition.
Treatment of alopecia areata carried out by doctors in the form of giving medicines and counseling. In addition, there are some self-treatments that can be done to reduce the discomfort caused by this disease. Here is the explanation:
In some cases, hair loss and baldness experienced by alopecia areata patients can recover on their own. The doctor may prescribe medication to stimulate hair growth. Medicines that may be given are:
This drug is used to stimulate hair growth. The most common form of minoxidil used to treat baldness due to alopecia areata is topical or topical. New hair growth can be seen 3 months after using this medicine.
Corticosteroids are used to suppress the immune system. This medicine is available in the form of injections, ointments, and tablets. Injections are usually given to adult patients, while ointments are generally given to children. While corticosteroid tablets are consumed by patients with extensive baldness.
This medicine is used to treat baldness on the scalp. After being applied and kept silent as recommended by the doctor, anthralin should be washed clean so that the skin does not experience irritation.
Diphencyprone is a drug used to divert the immune system from attacking hair follicles. This medicine is applied to the bald skin area. One of the signs of this drug starting to work is the appearance of contact dermatitis .
Counseling and support group
To overcome emotional disturbances and increase self-confidence, patients can undergo counseling with a psychologist. In addition, patients can join a group ( support group ) of alopecia areata sufferers, to share experiences and reduce stress.
Although harmless, alopecia areata can cause discomfort due to the baldness experienced. Here are some ways that can be done to overcome the discomfort:
- Using a wig, a hat, and applying sunscreen cream on the bald part, to protect the skin from the sun
- Shaving head hair, mustache, or beard to improve appearance
- Using glasses or false eyelashes, to protect the eyes from dust if suffering from baldness on the eyebrows and eyelashes
Complications of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata does not cause complications that harm the sufferer. In addition, this condition is also not contagious. However, there are several complications that can occur in patients with alopecia areata, namely:
- Permanent baldness in 10% of sufferers
- Emotional disorders that can cause anxiety disorders and depression
- Disruption of social relationships, due to low self-esteem
In addition, alopecia areata is often associated with an increased risk of diseases due to other immune system disorders, such as asthma, vitiligo , lupus, or atopic dermatitis.
Prevention of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is difficult to prevent, considering the exact cause is not yet known. However, for patients with autoimmune diseases, it is recommended to do routine check-ups with the doctor to monitor the condition.
In addition, eliminating stress is believed to help prevent alopecia areata. The way that can be done to get rid of stress is by meditating , doing relaxation techniques , getting enough sleep, and doing breathing exercises.