Alopecia Areata (AA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes the loss of hair, usually in a circular or oval shape. Little is known about the condition, why or how it develops in people, or if there are any aggravating factors.
As mentioned previously, the loss of hair is in a “patchy” fashion, usually occurring at one or multiple areas of the scalp. These may go unnoticed at first but will inevitably grow if left untreated; a common outcome is that the patches will eventually meet and form much more noticeable bald spots (or “patches”) on the scalp, at which point immediate actions need to be taken.
It is believed that AA is a result of a chronic inflammation of the scalp, eventually affecting the development of follicles; but again, it is difficult to determine what causes this inflammation, where or how it will occur, and how badly it will affect the person diagnosed.
There is no evidence showing that men or women suffer more; AA affects both sexes equally. It is estimated that there is 15 out of 10,000 people suffering from AA in the UK alone! The condition can theoretically be developed at any age but will more often than not develop at a young age; 60% of cases are diagnosed by age 21, with the majority of people exhibiting signs of AA-style hair loss between 15 years old and 29 years old.
As mentioned previously, AA will cause circular hair loss across the scalp. There are subcategories to the condition that can be differentiated by the location of the hair loss:
A more specific condition called Traction Areata can be encountered as well. This is usually a consequence of keeping hair tied up for continuous periods of time. The strain exerted on the hairs will affects the follicles, leading to permanent damage to the hair’s integrity. This will usually lead to premature shedding. People who keep their hair in ponytails or braids are more susceptible of developing this condition.