Alopecia areata is a hair condition which involves hair loss in patches from the scalp. Most of the time, this baldness occurs in small patches, but in rare cases can spread to the entire scalp. This condition affects both men and women, but occurs more often in females. Most of those affected by alopecia areata don't have an apparent skin disorder and are otherwise healthy. People of all ages can get alopecia areata, but this condition occurs most often in teenagers or young adults.
There are many factors which play a part in developing alopecia areata. But don't worry! It's not communicable and not contagious. Heredity may be one cause. Another possible cause is an autoimmune disorder that affects the hair follicles and stops hair growth. Then those bald patches occur. Patches can take any shape, but most often are round, and occur in the scalp or beard area. The hair may appear to have an exclamation point shape, which means the hair shaft is narrower the closer it gets to the follicle.
Physicians can test for areas of potential alopecia by tugging gently on a suspicious area. This hair will pull out easily, not unevenly like healthy hair. Fortunately, there are some treatments for alopecia areata. Injections of steroids or the use of steroid creams have been helpful in treating this condition. Creams don't treat the deeper layers of the skin where the hair bulbs are, and aren't always the most effective treatment.
In the cases of small patches, most patches will begin to grow back within a few months. Without treatment, about half of the people who get alopecia areata will regrow their hair in about a year. Those with alopecia areata should use sunscreen on those exposed areas of scalp, or wear a hat with sun exposure. In extreme cases, some individuals are more comfortable wearing a wig or artificial hairpiece until hair growth recurs.