Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter. The amount of hair loss is different in everyone.


  • When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your body.

  • With alopecia areata, it’s the hair follicles that are attacked.

  • Doctors don’t know why it happens. But they think people who get it have something in their genes that makes it more likely.

  • Then something happens to trigger the hair loss. Learn more about what causes alopecia.

You’re more likely to get alopecia areata if you have:

  • A family member who has it

  • Asthma

  • Down syndrome

  • Pernicious anemia

  • Seasonal allergies

  • Thyroid disease

  • Vitiligo


  • Small bald patches on your scalp or other parts of your body

  • Patches may get larger and grow together into a bald spot

  • Hair grows back in one spot and falls out in another

  • You lose a lot of hair over a short time

  • More hair loss in cold weather

  • Fingernails and toenails become red, brittle, and pitted


If you think you have alopecia areata, you may want to see a skin specialist called a dermatologist. They will:

  • Talk to you about your symptoms

  • Take a close look at the areas where you have hair loss

  • Pull gently on the hairs at the edges of the bald patch to see if they come out easily

  • Check individual hairs and follicles to see if they’re abnormally shaped

  • Examine your nails

Rarely, you may have a biopsy, which means a small piece of skin is removed from your scalp and looked at under a microscope.

Many conditions can cause hair loss. So your doctor may test your skin for a fungal infection or give you blood tests to check for thyroid, hormone, or immune system problems.



  • These are anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed for autoimmune diseases.

  • They can be given as an injection into the scalp or other areas.

  • They can also be given as a pill or rubbed on the skin as an ointment, cream, or foam.

  • The downside is that it may take a long time to work.

Topical immunotherapy

  • This is used when there’s a lot of hair loss or if it happens more than once.

  • Chemicals are applied to the scalp to produce an allergic reaction.

  • If it works, this reaction is actually what makes the hair grow back.

  • It also causes an itchy rash and usually has to be repeated several times to keep the new hair growth.

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

  • This treatment, which is put on the scalp, is already used for pattern baldness.

  • It usually takes about 12 weeks before you see growth, and some users are disappointed in the results.

diseases treatments health prevention alopecia-areata disorders integumentary-system

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