For many of us, hair is a major part of our identities. It emphasizes our personality and style. Thankfully, bald spots can only happen in old age – right? Think again.
A condition called alopecia areata is rare, but it can happen to anyone. It is an autoimmune disease, much like rheumatoid arthritis and type-1 diabetes. In this case, the immune system wrongly attacks healthy tissue, causing hair loss.
If you have a family history of alopecia areata, you have a greater risk. The chances increase if that person is an immediate relative.
While it usually begins in childhood, it may also develop later on in life.1 Here are the top five alopecia areata symptoms and signs.
1. Hair Loss
The definition of alopecia areata is also its primary symptom: hair loss. It develops in the form of bald spots, which can lead to alopecia totalis or total baldness. This only happens to 5 percent of all alopecia areata cases. It’s possible to be perfectly healthy and have bald spots.2 However, it’s not a life-threatening problem, so it doesn’t mean you are ill or unwell. Additionally, pain isn’t a symptom of alopecia areata.
That’s not to say there aren’t mental and emotional side effects. Hair is a big part of who we are! It’s normal to feel insecure and self-conscious.
When it comes to alopecia areata, age does not matter. It isn’t something that only happens to elders. This condition can affect men and women, young and old.
Overall, only 2 percent of Americans have alopecia areata.3
2. Round Patches
Alopecia areata hair loss has specific traits. It shows up as round, circular bald patches on the scalp. You might also lose hair from other parts of the body, like the beard, eyebrows, arms, or legs.
Any type of hair loss doesn’t mean you have alopecia areata. First, check to see if you have patches, then look at the shape. Roundness is a tell-tale sign.
These patches will also show up gradually. It’ll start with one or two, then eventually become more common.4
3. Smooth Skin
4. Thin Hair
The hair that you do have might thin out. This alopecia areata symptom will happen slowly and gradually, just like the patches. You may also find clumps of hair when you brush or wash it.7
5. Burning And Itching
Some people with alopecia areata may feel burning sensations on the scalp. Itching might also crop up, making it even more annoying to deal with.8 If this sounds familiar, consider using soothing oils that double as hair loss treatments. Ideal options include pumpkin seed oil9 and peppermint essential oil.10
If the hair loss is minor, it’ll usually grow back in a few months without treatment. Yet, there’s always the risk of new hair falling out again. If the hair loss is more severe, complete balding can happen within six months.11
|↑1, ↑3||Questions and Answers about Alopecia Areata. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.|
|↑2||Alopecia areata. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑4, ↑6, ↑8, ↑11||Alopecia areata. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑5||Alopecia Areata. MedlinePlus.|
|↑7||Alopecia. Rush University Medical Center.|
|↑9||Cho, Young Hye, Sang Yeoup Lee, Dong Wook Jeong, Eun Jung Choi, Yun Jin Kim, Jeong Gyu Lee, Yu Hyeon Yi, and Hyeong Soo Cha. “Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.”Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2014 (2014).|
|↑10||Oh, Ji Young, Min Ah Park, and Young Chul Kim. “Peppermint oil promotes hair growth without toxic signs.” Toxicological research 30, no. 4 (2014): 297.|