Patchy Hair Loss
When hair loss occurs only in certain spots of the scalp, it’s called alopecia areata, or patchy hair loss. It occurs in both men and women – and typically first occurs in childhood.
Considered an autoimmune condition, patchy hair loss occurs when the body’s immune systems attacks hair follicles. Whether or not you are susceptible to patchy hair loss appears to have a genetic component – but genetics alone doesn’t necessarily trigger the condition. Stress, cold weather, allergies, hormones, and other factors may contribute to the appearance of patchy hair loss in those susceptible to it.
Alopecia areata, or patchy hair loss, is not contagious.
What Alopecia Areata Looks Like
It tends to occur suddenly, with a patchy bald spot appearing within just a few days.
The bald patches of alopecia areata may be circular or oblong and about the size of a coin – but there is a great deal of variation in the size and shape of the bald spots. Notably, the hair loss occurs without any pain, redness, rash, scars, or other signs of injury or infection. It look as if you’ve just shaved the area.
Bald patches commonly first appear on the scalp – but may occur anywhere on the body. The eyebrows, beard area, armpits, pubic hair, even your eyelashes may be affected by alopecia areata. You may have a single bald spot or several that appear to join together, creating much larger bald spots.
People with patchy hair loss may also experience itchiness or a tingly sensation in the area before the bald spot develops. Their fingernails or toenails may become brittle or have significant indentations or ridges. In some cases, the nails may appear red in color, especially near the cuticle, or feel like sandpaper.
Those with alopecia areata are generally otherwise healthy.
Why Abnormal Hair Shedding Happens
Unlike the hair-thinning effects of androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern baldness), patchy hair loss involves abnormal hair shedding.
This is because the immune system attacks hair follicles by targeting the hair root, deep under the skin. Inflammation occurs as a result – but is not noticeable on the skin’s surface. This is why there is no redness on the surface of the skin or pain in the bald spot. The hair follicles shrink, and hair growth slows down – so much so that new hair growth can take months or even years.
The good news is that alopecia areata doesn’t destroy the hair follicle, so hair can regrow once the deep-seated inflammation is addressed.
Treating Patchy Hair Loss
Alopecia areata cannot be cured – but its symptoms, including hair loss, can be addressed. Sometimes, hair may regrow without any treatment whatsoever. But, even then, the condition may periodically recur or become more extensive. If your hair doesn’t regrow on its own, there are hair restoration treatments that can help.
When it comes to treating patchy hair loss, it’s important to note that there is no single treatment that works for everyone. What works for you will depend on your age and the extent of your hair loss.
Oral, topical, or injectable medications such as anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids can help reduce swelling that is generally part of any immune system response. Immunotherapy or immunosuppressants may also be recommended, depending on the intensity of your symptoms. Vasodilators or other methods may be used to encourage the restart of hair growth.
When conservative methods fail, there are a host of surgical and nonsurgical methods to restore hair growth in the bald patches. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, for example, can stimulate dormant hair follicles to regrow hair as a part of your alopecia areata treatment plan.
Suffering from Alopecia Areata? Contact Dr. Darling, Hair Transplant Surgeon in Des Moines, Kansas City & Liberty, MO
Don’t live with noticeable patchy hair loss a moment longer! Dr. Scott Darling at Darling Hair Restoration of Kansas City and Liberty, Missouri, is experienced at assessing the cause of hair loss and treating it, including alopecia areata. Call Dr. Darling at (816) 792-3400 or request your consultation now.