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Patchy loss of hair on the scalp or body affects one person in every 100. In the UK; in a population of 70 million people that means 700,000 will be struggling with Alopecia Areata (AA).
Follicles Usually Remain Capable of Regrowth
The condition most commonly affects younger women and children. Alopecia Areata is due to an auto-immune response in which the body forms white cells that attack the hair follicles where the hair is produced. This results in arresting the hair growth and the follicle enters the resting phase of its cycle where the hair falls. With AA there is no actual loss of follicle in the scalp itself. Follicles usually remain capable of regrowing even after years of AA. However the condition is unpredictable and growth may fluctuate.
GP/ Dermatologist Diagnosis
A characteristic shiny patch of scalp becomes visible and feels silky smooth. The hairs surrounding this patch are thin at the roots and break off to stubble that is extremely fine at the bottom, the entire hair shaft resembling an exclamation mark.
To diagnose the condition a GP or Dermatologist will closely examine the scalp and may take a small biopsy. A plug of less than a quarter inch is enough to examine under a microscope. Treatment depends on the extent of the condition.
AA Can Improve Over Time
Some cases of Alopecia Areata will improve over time. The condition is unpredictable and hair growth and loss may occur over many years. For a very few people the condition may get progressively worse and patchy hair loss or general fining may progress to Alopecia Totalis.