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Alopecia areata

Contents of this page:


Alopecia areata with pustules
Alopecia areata with pustules
Alopecia totalis - back view of the head
Alopecia totalis - back view of the head
Alopecia totalis - front view of the head
Alopecia totalis - front view of the head
Alopecia, under treatment
Alopecia, under treatment

Alternative Names    Return to top

Alopecia 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.

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