Alopecia Areata is a common cause of hair loss, usually causing patchy round areas of baldness to appear on the scalp. Other hair-bearing skin may be affected, including the beard, body, eyebrows and eyelashes.
The hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by the affected person's immune system because it regards them as 'foreign'. This immune system response causes the loss of hair but there is no permanent damage caused to the affected hair follicle. This attack is called an autoimmune response.
One in five sufferers has a close relative who also has alopecia areata.
Sometimes, at the edge of the patch of hair loss can sometimes be seen short tapered hairs call 'exclamation mark' hairs, and these are characteristic of alopecia areata. The area is neither scaly or inflamed and fine, pale or even white hairs can sometimes be seen regrowing in the centre of the patch. These thicken as time progresses and get their colour back.
Alopecia areata cannot be cured, but treatments are available that help the hair regrow, but there are no treatments that will prevent it reoccurring.