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Causes of Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata or Patchy hair loss is a type of autoimmune disorder. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. Hair follicles are the structures from which hair grows.

The immune system attacks the follicles to stop producing hair, becoming the primary alopecia areata reason. It is one of the five most common forms of alopecia.

Alopecia areata leads to patches of hair loss on the scalp. It can also affect other areas of the body such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, and face. In some cases, the onset is sudden while in others, it may develop slowly over the years. The condition can recur throughout the lifetime of an individual.

In severe cases, alopecia areata can progress to the 2 conditions mentioned below:

  1. Alopecia Totalis: It is an autoimmune condition that causes complete loss of hair on the scalp.
  2. Alopecia Universalis: It is the most severe form of alopecia areata. It causes complete hair loss over the entire body.

The current causes of alopecia areata are not known. Alopecia areata causes in females and males are different. However, there can be certain triggers and underlying medical conditions that may act as alopecia areata causes.

Risk Factors for Alopecia Areata

  • Genetics

    :

    Family history is a common cause of alopecia areata. If your family has a history of alopecia areata, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, your risk may increase. According to Harvard Medical School, about 40% of people in their 30s with alopecia areata have a family member diagnosed with the same condition. Hence, it is one of the chief alopecia causes. Comorbid conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or atopic conditions, can also contribute to alopecia areata.

  • Asthma

    :

    A respiratory condition causes the tubes (that carry air to and from the lungs) become inflamed, swollen, and narrow. This leads to difficulty in breathing. According to Harvard Medical School, the risk of developing alopecia areata is unusually high in people who have asthma. Hence, asthma can be a reason for alopecia areata.

  • Allergic rhinitis

    :

    An allergy occurs when the immune system reacts abnormally to foreign unharming substances in the body. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, happens when the immune system reacts too much to allergens in the air. It causes inflammation in the nose. As per the Experimental Dermatology article, allergies may contribute to the onset and relapse of alopecia areata. Hence, it can act as an alopecia areata trigger.

  • Eczema

    :

    This condition causes red, itchy skin inflammation. It is commonly seen in infants but can affect people of any age. The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis; can be one of the alopecia causes.

  • Stress, anxiety or depression

    :

    The primary reason for alopecia areata is a mistaken response of the immune system. This immune response destroys the hair follicles. Extreme stress, anxiety, or depression may trigger such an immune response. These factors can work as triggers for alopecia areata.

  • Thyroid diseases

    :

    When the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, it causes thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease. It leads to overproduction or underproduction of the thyroid hormones. According to the British Thyroid Foundation, alopecia areata is more common in people with autoimmune thyroid diseases. Therefore, thyroid diseases can be one of the important alopecia causes.

  • Vitiligo

    :

    According to a study published by the NCBI, the immune cell populations and cytokines that drive vitiligo and alopecia areata are similar. Patients and their families associate with them. Vitiligo and alopecia areata have common genetic risk factors, suggesting that they share a similar pathogenesis. Therefore, vitiligo may, in some cases, become an alopecia areata trigger.

  • Low Vitamin D levels

    :

    There may be a relationship between low vitamin B levels and alopecia areata. Though some studies have shown this correlation, it is yet to be proven clinically.

  • Psoriasis

    :

    Psoriasis and alopecia areata are also thought to be correlated. Since both are autoimmune conditions, they are sometimes found to coexist. Allergic Conditions such as hay fever, are also associated with alopecia areata. People with hay fever are more prone to getting alopecia areata.

These are the most common risk factors associated with alopecia areata and having them could make a treatment harder. There are few treatment options and treatments for alopecia areata, topical immunotherapy, and minoxidil rogaine listed by the Food and drug administration FDA. These medicines are effective in long-term benefits and may have many side effects.

However, the good news is that hair regrowth is fully possible with the right homeopathic treatment. Unlike in male pattern baldness, there is no damage to the hair follicle in alopecia areata. Therefore even though hair loss occurs extensively, hair growth and regrowing hair from all parts of the body is fully possible at any age.

Medically Reviewed

Dr. Rushi P Vyas
Experience: 19+ years

Qualification

  • B.H.M.S (Maharashtra University of Health Sciences)

  • FCHD (Fellowship in Homeopathic Dermatologist - Mumbai)

FAQs

Is alopecia caused by stress?

Alopecia areata involves patchy hair loss triggered by the immune system mistakenly attacking hair follicles. Extreme stress can be responsible for such an immune response, making it an important alopecia cause.

How long does it take for alopecia to go away?

The cure for alopecia areata is currently not known. Hair loss episodes may occur throughout a person’s lifetime. However, the symptoms can be managed effectively with the right medical treatment. Homeopathic treatment is one of the best mediums for the treatment of chronic conditions like alopecia areata. It addresses the underlying alopecia areata causes, thus ensuring long-term relief.

How long can alopecia last?

The progress of alopecia areata depends on the alopecia causes and alopecia areata triggers, which are unique for each individual. If left untreated, alopecia areata can last for many years. It can even progress to more severe forms like Alopecia Totalis (complete loss of hair on the scalp) or Alopecia Universalis (complete loss of hair on the entire body).

What are the main causes of alopecia?

A family history of alopecia areata, or any other autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis; is one of the main alopecia causes. Other than this, suffering from autoimmune diseases or atopic conditions such as asthma, eczema and allergies amongst others can become reasons for alopecia. Psychological conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety may also act as alopecia areata triggers.

What causes female alopecia?

Alopecia areata causes are not gender-specific. The primary alopecia areata triggers include genetics and the presence of comorbid conditions, which can exist in both men and women.

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