Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that is autoimmune. This means that the body attacks its own hair follicles. The exact cause of why this starts to happen is unknown. Alopecia areata can affect people of all ages and all genders.
Alopecia areata presents as well circumscribed round patches of hair loss on the scalp or the beard area. When alopecia areata affects the whole scalp, it is called alopecia totalis. If it affects all hair bearing areas, it is known as alopecia universalis.
Alopecia areata is thought to be autoimmune. However, scientists believe that there is a genetic and environmental component to it as well.
There are various treatments for alopecia areata. The most common treatment is the use of topical steroids or a series of intralesional steroid injections. In addition, other medications such as tacrolimus (Protopic®) or pimecrolimus (Elidel®) may be recommended. If the disease is diffuse, oral steroids or other systemic medications may be considered. More recently, topical or oral tofacitinib has shown promising results, but more studies are indicated.
Alopecia areata can sometimes present with the presence of other autoimmune disease such as thyroid disease. Therefore, your doctor may order some extra blood tests, if indicated.