Fitness Facts: Alopecia
By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles and causes hair to fall out.
Most people will only lose hair in small, round patches but others may lose all their hair. They also may have cycles where the hair falls out and grows back again. Alopecia does not cause pain or illness.
- It is common (more than 200,000 cases per year in U.S.)
- Treatments can help manage condition, but there is no known cure.
- Doesn’t require lab test or imaging to diagnose
- Can last several years or be lifelong
- Most common in ages 35-50
- Family history may increase likelihood
Symptoms of alopecia:
The main and often the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. You also may notice:
- Small bald patches on other parts of your body
- Patches may get larger and grow together into a bald spot
- Hair grows back in one spot and falls out in another
- You lose a lot of hair over a short time
- You may see more hair loss in cold weather
- Fingernails and toenails become red, brittle and pitted
- Bald patches of skin are smooth and have no rash or redness
- You might feel tingling, itching or a burning sensation on your skin before the hair falls out.
If you think you may have alopecia, you will want to see a dermatologist to help diagnose and treat.
The dermatologist may:
- Take a close look at the areas where you have hair loss
- Pull gently on the hairs at the edges of the bald patch to see if they come out easily
- Check individual hairs and follicles to see if they are abnormally shaped
- Examine your nails
- Biopsy your skin
- Review your overall health to look for conditions that may result in hair loss such as a fungal infection, thyroid dysfunction, asthma or vitiligo.
Alopecia can be treated, and hair can grow back. If you are questioning whether you have hair loss from alopecia, see your health care provider or schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to evaluate your health and recommend the best treatment for you.