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What is Alopecia? Is there help?

Alopecia Patients

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What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disease. It mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere. In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. Although uncommon, the disease can progress to cause total loss of hair on the head., face, and body.

Who gets Alopecia?

Alopecia areata affects an estimated four million Americans of both sexes and of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. It often begins in childhood. If you have a close family member with the disease, your risk of developing it is slightly increased. If your family member lost his or her first patch of hair before age 30, the risk to other family members is greater. Overall, one in five people with the disease have a family member who has it as well.

What Causes Alopecia?
In alopecia areata, immune system cells called white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles that make the hair. The affected hair follicles become small and drastically slow down hair production. Fortunately, the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair. Scientists do not know exactly why the hair follicles undergo these changes, but they suspect that In addition to treatments to help hair grow, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the physical dangers or discomforts of lost hair.

How Is Alopecia Treated?

In addition to treatments to help hair grow, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the physical dangers or discomforts of lost hair.

  • Sunscreens are important for the scalp, face, and all exposed areas.
  • Eyeglasses (or sunglasses) protect the eyes from excessive sun, and from dust and debris, when eyebrows or eyelashes are missing.
  • Wigs, caps, or scarves protect the scalp from the sun and keep the head warm.

The following are some treatments for alopecia areata.

Local injections, Corticosteroids, Oral corticosteroids, Topical ointments, Minoxidil (5%) (Rogaine*), Sulfasalazine, Topical sensitizers, Oral cyclosporine, Photo-chemotherapy.

Alternative Therapies:
When drug treatments fail to bring sufficient hair regrowth, some people turn to alternative therapies. Alternatives purported to help alopecia areata include acupuncture, aroma therapy, evening primrose oil, zinc and vitamin supplements, and Chinese herbs. Because many alternative therapies are not backed by clinical trials, they may or may not be effective for re-growing hair. In fact, some may actually make hair loss worse.

Lists of organizations for further support and information:

National Alopecia Areata Foundation
National Alopecia Areata Foundation
14 Mitchell Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
PO Box 150760
San Rafael, CA 94915-0760
Phone: 415-472-3780
Fax: 415-472-5343
E-mail: info@naaf.org
Web site: www.naaf.org


American Hair Loss Council
125 Seventh Street, Suite 625
Pittsburgh, PA15222
Phone: 412-765-3666
Fax: 412-765-3669


National Instituteof Arthritisand Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892-3675
Phone: 301-495-4484 or
877-22-NIAMS (226-4267) (free of charge)
TTY: 301-565-2966
Fax: 301-718-6366
E-mail: NIAMSInfo@mail.nih.gov

40 Comments to What is Alopecia? Is there help?:

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