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Alopecia Areata

What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation. Hair follicles are the tiny cup-shaped structures from which hairs grow. Alopecia areata often leads to hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body.

In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. Alopecia areata can progress to cause total loss of hair on the head or complete loss of hair on the head, face, and body.

Parts of the Body Affected by Alopecia Areata

Some people with alopecia areata will experience problems with their nails. The nails develop stippling that looks as if a pin had made rows of tiny dents. In a few patients, the nails are severely distorted. Other than the hair and occasionally the nails, no other part of the body is affected.

What Causes Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is caused by an abnormality in the immune system. This particular abnormality leads to autoimmunity. As a result, the immune system attacks particular tissues of the body.

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

The most common symptoms of alopecia areata are hair loss and balding.

Can Alopecia Areata be Treated?

Currently, there is no cure for alopecia areata. Treatments are aimed at controlling the symptoms. Some common treatments are: hair transplant surgery, topical ointments and corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs similar to a hormone called cortisol produced in the body. Corticosteroids can be given orally or via local injections.

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