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Alternative Names Return to topAlopecia totalis; Alopecia universalis
Definition Return to top
Alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss.
Causes Return to top
The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia. Alopecia areata may sometimes occur with autoimmune diseases.
Forms of alopecia include:
Symptoms Return to top
Hairs that look like exclamation points are sometimes seen at the edges of a bald patch.
Exams and Tests Return to top
On occasion, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Several blood tests may be done, because alopecia areata may occur with autoimmune conditions.
Treatment Return to top
No fully effective treatments are available. Typical therapy includes:
Irritating drugs may be applied to hairless areas to cause the hair to regrow.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:
Possible Complications Return to top
Permanent hair loss is a possible complication of alopecia areata.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are concerned about hair loss.Update Date: 10/3/2008 Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.