Alopecia Areata is the random loss of patches of hair on the scalp. It can affect anyone at any age, regardless of age or sex. There is no set pattern for Alopecia Areata. The bald patches can occur in very small areas, or it can affect a large portion of the scalp. The remaining hair continues to grow. With AA, the bald patches can come and go over time, even moving around to different areas. Many AA sufferers report that the skin can become somewhat inflamed prior to the occurrence of a bald patch.
In some people, Alopecia Areata will appear for a few months and then simply disappear, never to return.
Many times, Alopecia Areata can over time progress to other more aggressive forms of Alopecia, including Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis.
One thing AA, AT and AU sufferers will all agree on: AA, AT and AU are extremely unpredictable. It’s impossible to predict what will happen in any given individual case.
The leading theory as to the cause of AA, AT and AU is that the individual’s immune system, for whatever reason, begins attacking the body’s own hair follicles as if they were enemy invaders.
Typical therapy for AA can include but is not limited to Cortisone shots directly into the scalp. The idea is to suppress the immune system’s inflammatory response. Many people report initial success in making the AA bald patch symptoms disappear, at least temporarily. Continued long-term use of Cortisone is not advised, since it can have bad side-effects, chiefly bone-softening. People report that the shots themselves can be very painful and can cause scarring.
Cortisone shots to suppress AA seem to be affected by the law of diminishing returns — that is to say, over time the shots seem to lose their effectiveness. They can buy some symptom-free time up front, but after a few years they can get to where their effectiveness at symptom suppression is diminished. The very real possibility of softened bones should cause one to think twice about long-term use of Cortisone.
Many people try all sorts of different sorts of alternative therapies, such as vitamins, dietary supplements, unconventional topical treatments, etc. The usefulness of these therapies is always debatable. Unfortunately, AA can cause desperation, and desperate people can fall prey to unscrupulous people who just want to sell them something, holding out the promise of something “magic.” Unfortunately, the hard reality of AA is that it is completely unpredictable.
If the case of AA is mild, the solution can be as simple as changing one’s hairstyle so as to keep the bald patches hidden. If the case is more severe, then many women are able to supplement their remaining hair with an add-on hair piece like a “hair halo.” In severe cases they may be forced to shave off the remaining hair and get a wig. Both supplemental hair pieces and full wigs come in two different types, synthetic hair wigs made out of man-made materials and natural human hair wigs.