DefinitionAlopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Alopecia areata causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy hair follicles. Hair loss may be acute, or it may recur.
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CausesThe cause of alopecia areata is unknown. It is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It most typically affects patches of the scalp. Variations of alopecia areata can cause hair loss on the entire scalp, in men's beards, or over the entire body.
Risk FactorsAlopecia areata is more common in people under 30 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of alopecia areata include:
- Family history of baldness or hair loss
- Predisposition to allergic reactions
- Having another autoimmune disorder, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or Hashimoto's thyroiditis
SymptomsAlopecia areata causes sudden, patchy hair loss. Hair loss occurs mainly on the scalp or in the beard.
DiagnosisYour will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In most cases, the doctor will be able to make the diagnosis based on the exam. There are tests that can confirm alopecia areata or rule out other causes of your hair loss.Your bodily fluids, hair, and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Taking samples of scalp areas with inflammation to examine under a microscope
- Analyzing samples of hair
- Fungal culture
- Biopsy of the scalp
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