What is it?

Alopecia areata is a chronic autoimmune skin disorder that causes areas (patches) of hair loss. It commonly affects the scalp but may also involve other areas with hair such as eyebrows, eyelashes, beard and more. Severe alopecia areata may cause full hair loss.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Ophiasis
- Patchy hair loss

Signs & symptoms

The key clinical feature is hair loss. There are a few types of alopecia areata that can manifest differently. The common type is "patchy alopecia". As the name implies, it causes patches of complete hair loss. The areas of hair loss usually develop within a few weeks and are circular and smooth to the touch. "Exclamation point hairs" are a common finding. These are broken hairs in which the end closer to the scalp is narrower than the other end. Nail abnormalities may also be present. Approximately 50% of patients with limited disease will recover within a year. However, most will experience more episodes throughout their life.


The diagnosis is usually clinical, based on physical examination and history. A skin biopsy is usually not necessary but may be helpful for challenging cases


There’s no cure for alopecia areata. However, there are treatments that may help your hair to regrow. Treatment is indicated only in patients that desire intervention.
The effectiveness of each treatment varies from person to person. Treatment options include
1. Intralesional corticosteroids- This is a common treatment option in which corticosteroids are injected via tiny needles to the affected areas.
2. Topical corticosteroids - evidence for effectiveness is rather lacking but they are thought to decrease inflammation in the hair follicle and as a result, promote regrowth.
3. Minoxidil- available OTC. It is rather safe though it may take time to see results, and continuous use is needed in order to maintain them.
4. Phototherapy- light therapy
5. Oral treatments such as cortisone and immunosuppressants can be used. However, these medications have many side effects and are not recommended for long periods of time.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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