What Is Alopecia?
Nearly 2.5 million Americans have alopecia areata, a condition
in which hair loss occurs in round patches about the size of a coin. . .or even
completely. It can occur in the scalp alone or throughout the body. More than
half of affected patients are under 20, although it can occur at any age.
In general, the specific cause of alopecia is unknown. Genetic factors cause
one in 5 cases, but illness and stress also play important roles. Alopecia
is an autoimmune disorder: this means the patient's own immune system is attacking
their own healthy hair follicles.
The good news is that the hair follicles are rarely destroyed completely, so
that normal hair growth can sometimes resume spontaneously. In mild cases,
corticosteroids may help. Some patients also benefit from minoxidil or even
Most patients either ignore alopecia or try to cover it up. Instead of hiding
in embarrassment, talk to your doctor. Certain medical problems can also cause
this or other forms of hair loss and treating them sooner rather than later
is always better.
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Created: 6/1/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.