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Alopecia Areata Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Risk Factors

Alopecia Areata is hair loss caused by the immune system (autoimmune) to the follicle of the function on the scalp, although it can also occur in other body parts that are overgrown hair, such as eyebrows, mustaches, and eyelashes. 
In addition to round patterned baldness, alopecia areata can also cause complete baldness. Alopecia Areata can be suffered by anyone, whether male or female, in any age. But generally this condition is more experienced by people aged 20 years and under.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system in charge of protecting the body from virus or bacteria attacks actually make the mistake of attacking the body itself.
Alopecia Areata Symptoms

In this case, the attack is a hair follicle. As a result, the hair follicle which is where the hair grows becomes smaller and stop producing hair so there is baldness.


Alopecia Areata

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

The main symptom shown by alopecia areata is round patterned baldness. Baldness can occur in one or several places that had been overgrown with hair. Sometimes, new hair appears on the edge of a bald area.

But the hair shaft is thinner at the base, so it looks like an exclamation point. In some patients with alopecia areata, baldness may extend to the scalp (alopecia totalis).

Although rare, baldness can also occur throughout the body so as not to leave a single strand of hair (alopecia universalis). Sometimes, hair can grow back after a few months, but with a thinner texture and white, different from previous hair.

Nevertheless, in about 10 percent of people with alopecia areata, baldness is permanent and hair will not grow back. In addition to the scalp and other body parts covered with hair, alopecia areata can also be characterized by disturbances on the fingernails of the fingers and toes, in the form of grooved nails and has a white line with a thin and rough surface.

Sometimes nails can change shape or split, though this is very rare.


Causes and Risk Factors for Alopecia Areata

The cause of autoimmune disorders in alopecia areata cases is unknown, but is suspected to be triggered by viral infections, trauma, hormonal changes, and physical or psychic distress.

Alopecia areata sufferers are also found in people who suffer from other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.


Diagnosis of Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata can be diagnosed by a doctor through examination of the condition of hair, especially hair loss that occurs.

In order to strengthen the diagnosis, investigation can be performed through analysis of scalp samples using a microscope.

This examination aims to ascertain the cause of hair loss.

If there is a strong suspicion that the patient has an autoimmune disease, then the doctor may recommend a blood test to check for abnormal antibodies, such as antinuclear antibody (ANA).

Other blood tests may also help doctors to determine other causes of baldness, such as levels of C-reactive protein, iron, thyroid hormone, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH).


Complications of Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is not a disease that can lead to serious conditions.

Alopecia areata also can not be transmitted to others and bald hair can grow back by itself in a few months.

But in about 10% of patients, baldness is permanent.

Patients with alopecia areata have a greater risk of suffering or having a family with asthma, allergies, and other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease and vitiligo.

Some alopecia areata sufferers may be emotionally disturbed, because they consider baldness to make themselves unattractive.

This situation can lead to depression. Support from the nearest person is important to help the patient adapt to this condition.

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