Alopecia

There are lots of reasons you can lose your hair. One of them is an auto-immune disorder called alopecia.

Description

It seems to be inherited, it’s fairly rare, and it strikes men and women roughly equally. Usually the hair-loss is in patches. There’s no clear association between alopecia and any other disease.

Alopecia typically starts with a few coin-sized zones of hair-loss, that increase over a few weeks. The location varies. This can happen on the scalp, the face, or anywhere else on the body. More than half of patients do get their hair back within a year. But recurrence is common, and some people remain hairless for several years.

There’s no test for alopecia, except for a skin biopsy, just to rule out other diseases.

Treatment

There is no safe and reliable treatment yet. Cortisone has been tried, so have immunosuppressants, and so has Minoxidil, an over-the-counter vasodilator used in ordinary male-pattern baldness. None of these have been shown to work conclusively.

Prognosis

The course of the disease varies greatly, and usually it’s self-limiting, though relapse is possible. Hair regrowth is slow, and the new hair may be of a different color.

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