Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that affects the hair follicles. Women who suffer from this condition can have bald patches, become totally bald or even experience body hair loss.
In the past, not much was known about this hair loss condition but more genetic research has been done and continuously being carried out to find out more about this condition and create new ways to fight it. The future of alopecia areata treatment is looking bright giving people who suffer from this condition a new hope.
Thinning Hair and Alopecia Areata
As we get older it is common for us to experience thinning of the hair. It is also important to note that it’s not just men who experience this. Women as well do experience thinning hair as they get older. In most cases this is nothing to worry about as this is just normal. However in the case of alopecia areata, thinning of hair and even hair loss can occur at any age. The emotional toll of the symptoms of this condition can be very devastating emotionally.
Most people who are diagnosed with alopecia areata experience shock and go through a grieving period. The condition can get worse over time causing all the hair to fall out or it can get better. This is according to Angela Christiano, Ph.D., professor of dermatology and genetics and the vice chair of Columbia University’s Dermatology Department. Angela Christiano is among the millions of people in the United States alone who suffer from this autoimmune disease. According to NAAF or National Alopecia Areata Foundation, there are 4.7 million people in the United States living with this condition.
Alopecia areata can either cause small patches of hair loss or complete baldness. This includes loss of hair in the nose and ears, eyelashes and even eyebrows. In the past years, doctors were still in the dark about what’s causing this condition or how far the disease progresses. Treatment for this disease also only had a few options back then.
New Knowledge on Alopecia Areata
Years of study have brought light into this autoimmune disease. Before, most researchers and medical experts believed that alopecia areata is somewhat similar to skin conditions like psoriasis. However new studies revealed that this condition is more similar to other autoimmune disorders like diabetes, arthritis and celiac disease.
In autoimmune disorders, something in the tissue makes the brain think that it has been damaged or has been attack. For alopecia areata it’s the hair follicle, for rheumatoid arthritis it’s the joint while for celiac disease it’s the gut and for type 1 diabetes it’s the pancreas. Because the tissue believes it has been attacked or damaged, as a coping or defense mechanism, a signal is turned on which recruits a “danger” response. For normal people, this immune response turns itself off while in people with autoimmune disorders the response just keeps going.
Because of the new knowledge about this autoimmune disease, researchers are closing in on understanding alopecia areata better and eventually finding a cure for it.