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Diseases reference index «Alopecia areata»

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss.

Causes

The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia. Alopecia areata may sometimes occur with autoimmune diseases.

Forms of alopecia include:

  • Alopecia totalis -- complete loss of scalp hair
  • Alopecia universalis -- total loss of all body hair

Symptoms

  • Loss of all scalp and body hair (alopecia universalis)
  • Loss of all scalp hair (alopecia totalis)
  • Roundish patches of hair loss on the head
  • Smooth, hairless scalp in the affected areas

Hairs that look like exclamation points are sometimes seen at the edges of a bald patch.

Exams and Tests

On occasion, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Several blood tests may be done, because alopecia areata may occur with autoimmune conditions.

Treatment

No fully effective treatments are available. Typical therapy includes:

  • Steroid injection under the skin surface
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Ultraviolet light therapy

Irritating drugs may be applied to hairless areas to cause the hair to regrow.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:

  • Alopecia areata at a young age
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Long-term alopecia

Possible Complications

Permanent hair loss is a possible complication of alopecia areata.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are concerned about hair loss.

Alternative Names

Alopecia totalis; Alopecia universalis

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