Alopecia areata is identified by the loss of hair on one's scalp in patchy, sporadic spots from one to three centimeters in diameter. It is believed to be a hereditary condition affecting hair follicles and can begin to show up as early as puberty in both men and women. In rare cases, individuals may experience alopecia totalis, which means all of the follicles in the scalp are destroyed. While alopecia is most commonly thought of as small spots of balding on the scalp, it can actually develop with any hair follicles on the body. Over six million Americans suffer from alopecia so it is likely that you or someone you know will be affected eventually. Thankfully, there are many available methods to help treat and manage alopecia, which could slow the progression of your hair loss or even stimulate new hair growth. At Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco, CA, board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans and her team provide some of the most effective alopecia treatments on the market. Schedule a consultation at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin to see how we can help you.
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The hair loss associated with alopecia areata is believed to be the result of an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack hair follicles. It has been associated with other autoimmune diseases, like vitiligo, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, though these diseases do not cause alopecia or vice versa. About one in five people with the condition have relatives who also suffer from it, meaning it is likely hereditary. There is evidence that reducing a person's anxiety or stress can alleviate alopecia-related hair loss, but there is no strong evidence that stress actually causes the condition.
Hair loss is the main indicator of alopecia. A person with alopecia may notice small round patches of baldness on the scalp or clumps of hair on their pillow or in the shower. It is also common that a hair stylist is the first to notice the small bald patches, which are usually about the size of a quarter or smaller. The hair loss associated with alopecia is unpredictable and random. The hair may grow back at any time and then may fall out again. The extent of hair loss and regrowth varies greatly from person to person. However, hair loss alone shouldn't be used to diagnose alopecia because other types of diseases can also cause hair to fall out in a similar pattern. Alopecia needs to be diagnosed by a dermatologist who may be able to determine the cause of the hair loss right away or may need to have a tissue sample laboratory tested.
At Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin, Dr. Evans and her team provide corticosteroid treatments and/or immunotherapy to manage alopecia. These methods are shown to be quite effective in slowing or stopping hair loss and even producing new hair growth in many cases. Corticosteroid treatments can be topical creams or injections, based on the extent of the hair loss, and work as anti-inflammatory drugs. Immunotherapy is usually applied in a topical solution and works by changing the immune system's response to your hair follicles.
Diagnose, then Treat
Sudden hair loss resulting from alopecia or any other condition can be frustrating, embarrassing, or even frightening. If you think you may be experiencing alopecia, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin. Dr. Evans and her team of professionals can help put your mind at ease by getting you a true diagnosis and starting you on the most effective treatment plan.