Alopecia Areata - Overview

‘The hair is the richest ornament of women’ - thus said Martin Luther but he would have surely wanted to change his quote had he lived in present times. Whether its women or men, they hold hair to be equally precious in today’s scenario and alopecia areata can be a big cause of concern for both.

Alopecia areata is loss of hair in patches. Although it can affect any hair-bearing area of the body, the term mostly connotes patchy hair loss from the scalp. The condition, though it is benign in most cases, can cause tremendous emotional and psychosocial stress in affected patients.

Homeopathy can effectively and safely relieve the patients from this condition when opted for at the right time. At Dr. Batra's we have the experience and expertise in alopecia areata treatment over the last 35 years in providing good relief to a large number of patients. Come and experience for yourself the wonderful effects of Homeopathy!

What is Alopecia Areata?

Amongst all hair disorders, none arouse as much interest as alopecia areata. The reason for this is the uniqueness with which the disease presents itself:

  • Alopecia can affect people of any age - from infancy right up to the 80s
  • It can affect any part of the body
  • This condition can progress very rapidly leading to complete loss of scalp hair in a span as short as 15 days or can limit itself to one small persistent patch throughout a person's life
  • It has phases of remissions and relapses even whilst the patient is on medication, and in few rare cases it’s known to relapse even 20 years after the first episode

Basically, alopecia areata is a condition in which there is patchy loss of hair from the scalp. The condition can affect any part of the body as mentioned before but it is most commonly seen on the scalp. In certain cases it can extend to eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair (beard, moustache) and can give rise to bald spots anywhere on the body.

Here are some of the features that are characteristic of alopecia areata:

  • Hair falls out in small patches leaving bald spots about the size of a small coin
  • There may be single or multiple such patches
  • The bald spots may remain static or may spread to involve larger areas of the scalp
  • In certain cases, hair loss is more extensive
  • Uncommonly, it may progress to total loss of hair on the head (alopecia areata totalis) or complete loss of hair all over the body (alopecia areata universalis)

Types of Alopecia

No matter what the type, alopecia areata has always been a cause of mental distress in most cases. However, it is essential to understand the different types to decide the curability of the cases:

Types of Alopecia Areata - Alopecia totalis, Alopecia universalis, Alopecia barbae, Traction alopecia

  • Alopecia areata monolocularis: A single bald spot on the scalp marks this condition. It may stay as such or may progress to formation of multiple spots.
  • Alopecia areata multilocularis: The patient presents with multiple bald spots on the scalp since the onset of the complaint.
  • Alopecia totalis: All the hair on the scalp is lost in this type of alopecia. It is one of the severe forms and constitutes the difficult cases.
  • Alopecia universalis: When all the hair from all over the body is lost, the condition is called alopecia universalis.
  • Alopecia barbae: The bald spots are limited only to the beard region in this type.
  • Traction alopecia: In some patients, due to constant tension on the hair from being tied very tightly, alopecia develops along the frontal and temporal margins of the scalp resulting in traction alopecia.

There is another classification of alopecia based on the presence of infection on the scalp:

  • Non-scarred alopecia areata: Here there is no superadded infection of the scalp and chances of recovery are better in such cases.
  • Scarred alopecia areata: A lichen infection of the scalp can lead to irreversible damage to the follicles and the skin of the scalp making it look like scar tissue.

Causes of Alopecia Areata

‘On account of lack of knowledge about its exact cause and mechanism, a lot of odd treatments have existed for alopecia; not to mention that these only cause further damage to the scalp!’

Alopecia areata belongs to the category of diseases classified as auto-immune conditions. These are conditions in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells – in this case the hair follicles - and destroys them. This results in hair being lost from the affected area. This abnormal behavior of the immune system can be triggered by a number of factors such as:

  • Testosterone: High levels of the male hormones (which are present in men as well as in women) can trigger the onset of alopecia
  • Disorders of thyroid gland
  • Anemia
  • Low intake of protein
  • Drugs and medications:
    • Chemotherapy drugs
    • Large doses of Vitamin A
    • Oral contraceptive pills
    • Antimalarials like Chloroquine
    • Beta blockers (used for treating hypertension)
    • Certain antidepressants
    • Anticoagulants
  • Chemical treatment of hair
  • During recuperation after some major surgery
  • Sudden weight loss due to dieting
  • SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus)
  • Local fungal infection of the scalp

Besides the aforementioned, emotional stress and genetics also play an important role in alopecia areata. A family history of alopecia areata or any other auto-immune diseases is seen in many cases suggesting a role of genetics in causing this disorder.

Diagnosis of Alopecia Areata

Spot it on the spot!

Diagnosing alopecia areata is probably one of the easiest things to do about this condition since the look of the patches itself is so peculiar. Typically, close examination of the lesion reveals a smooth bald patch.

One of the characteristic finding of alopecia areata is ‘exclamation point hair’. This unusual appearance of hair can be found in areas of hair loss. On close examination with a hand lens, these are seen as short, broken-off hair that are narrower closer to the scalp (appearing like an exclamation point).

‘Hair pull test’ can also be conducted at the margins of lesions. If the hair gets easily pulled out from the bald patch margins, it is indicative that the lesion is active and further hair loss can be anticipated.

However, for a more definitive diagnosis to be established, dermatologists sometimes need to take a small skin biopsy for microscopic examination. This can be used to determine whether there is focal inflammation of the hair follicles.

Coping with Alopecia

Living life normally…

In the present-day culture which views hair as a sign of youth and good health, it can be hard to cope with alopecia areata. The characteristic look of the scalp in alopecia can lead to significant appearance changes and this can certainly be the cause of psychological stress. Thus, patients with this condition frequently fall prey to social phobia, anxiety, and depression.

The key to coping is to understand your worth as a person not giving significance to how much hair you have or don't have.

One of the things that puts the patients to ease is talking with other people who are dealing with the same kind problems. This can be done by joining support groups, forums, etc wherein patients can interact amongst themselves. It helps to remember that they are not the lone sufferers of this ailment.

Seeking Counseling by a qualified professional can also help the patients to develop a more positive self-image.

Alopecia areata can lead to significant insecurity and a tendency to withdraw. Yet, it should not be allowed to interfere with the ability to live a normal life and pursue the goals of one’s life!

In addition, our nutritionist from London at Dr. Batra's recommends certain dietary changes based on her experience of helping a large number of patients of alopecia.

Here are some of the important dietary tips for patients:

  • Increase your intake of proteins (soya, oily fish, eggs, chicken), beans and legumes
  • Include all whole grains in your diet
  • Fruits, raw unprocessed nuts should be consumed in good quantities
  • Consumption of pumpkin and flax seeds has been seen to be helpful in many cases
  • Have lot of dark green vegetables such as spinach, fenugreek, etc.
  • Broccoli, cabbages are also good for you
  • Drink 2.5-3 liters of water daily
  • Take 3 cups of green tea a day
  • Cut back on tea, coffee and alcohol
  • Quit smoking

In addition, our specially formulated Dr. Batra's shampoos have the right pH of 6.5 recommended by the New Zealand Dermatology Society. Derived from natural products, these are very gentle on the scalp and yet very effective in treating hair disorders, if any. For healthy hair in general, we suggest regular use of Dr. Batra's Shampoo (based on your hair type) and Dr. Batra's Conditioner.

Homeopathic Treatment

Effective, natural care for your hair…

It’s not just a few cases where Homeopathy has shown excellent response in alopecia– in fact this is seen in a majority of cases. Indeed, Homeopathy has very good scope in the treatment of this condition.

The expertise in Homeopathy:

At Dr. Batra's, we have the experience of treating thousands of cases of alopecia over the last 35 years and providing effective, safe and gentle solutions to them. With the winning combination of Homeopathy, Trichology and Technology, we have been giving the best solutions to our patients.

One of the main reasons why Homeopathy works so beautifully in these cases is that it targets the altered immunity of the patient and brings it back to normal over a period of time. Thus the results are long-lasting and not just superficial in nature.

Constitutional treatment can also help to prevent relapses of the condition and impart good health in general. The best part about the treatment is that it is non habit-forming and without any side effects whatsoever.

The duration of treatment may vary from case to case and depends on a lot of factors. Cases of chronic nature with widespread affection, fast progress and presence of other systemic illness take longer duration to be treated. On the other hand, cases of recent origin with limited spread show a faster response.

It is strongly suggested that patients opt for homeopathic treatment as soon as possible in cases of alopecia areata.

The advantage of Trichology:

The expertise of our London-trained trichologists is also now easily available to you at Dr. Batra's. The head of Trichology department at Dr. Batra's - Dr. Akshay Batra and Dr. Ushma Batra are India’s first Trichologists from The Trichological Society of London. Dr. Akshay Batra is the first ever Asian Trichologist to get the honor of being the Vice President of the Trichological Society of London. With such experienced doctors to care for our patients, we leave no stone unturned in providing paramount service to all of them. Each of our doctors providing hair treatment is personally trained by Dr. Akshay Batra so that only the best services are rendered to our patients.

Technological lead:

A Swiss technology with proven beneficial effects on hair and scalp disorders, Swiss Polarized Rays (SPR) therapy (based on the Nobel Prize winning Piler Light Therapy) is actively used for cases of alopecia areata at Dr. Batra's. In addition, Low level Laser Comb is also made available for the patients to establish better circulation in the scalp thus controlling the loss of hair and augmenting hair growth.

Special formulations:

Our specially formulated Dr. Batra's shampoos have the right pH of 6.5 recommended by the New Zealand Dermatology Society. Many of our existing patients report good results with continued use of the same. Derived from natural products, these are very gentle on the scalp and yet very effective in treating hair disorders. For healthy hair in general, we suggest regular use of Dr. Batra's Shampoo (based on your hair type) and Dr. Batra's Conditioner.