Alopecia Areata causes patches of baldness that come and go. It can happen at any age, but it mostly affects teenagers and young adults. 6 out of 10 people affected develop their first bald patch before they are 20 years old.
The patches are about the size of a large coin and usually appear on the scalp, but can occur anywhere on the body.
Some people go on to develop a more severe form of hair loss, such as Alopecia Totalis where there is no scalp hair or Alopecia Universalis where there is no hair on the entire body.
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition. The immune system is the body's natural defence system, which helps protect it from infection by bacteria and viruses.
Usually, the immune system attacks the cause of an infection, but in this case, it damages the hair follicles instead.
Around 1 in 5 people with Alopecia Areata have a family history of it, so it could be inherited. And someone might also be at an increased risk if they or a member of their family have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), diabetes or Vitiligo, a condition which causes white patches on the skin.
There is no completely effective hair treatment, but in most cases, the hair grows back after about a year, because the hair follicles aren’t permanently damaged. At first, hair can grow back fine and white, but over time it should thicken and regain its normal colour.
Alopecia Areata is usually treated with injections of steroids, or sometimes via a steroid cream, gel or ointment. A treatment called immunotherapy involves stimulating hair growth by causing an intentional allergic reaction in the affected areas of skin.
If after time, there are still bald patches on the scalp and the hair has not grown back, then a Hair Transplant can help.