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Alopecia Areata

An autoimmune, often reversible disease in which loss of hair occurs in sharply defined areas.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

About Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a disease that causes round patches of hair loss. It can lead to total hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. That means your immune system, which normally helps protect the body from infection and disease, attacks the hair follicles.

In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter, producing a few bare patches. Hair loss is more widespread in some people. In rarer cases, the disease can cause total loss of hair on the head (referred to as alopecia areata totalis) or the entire body (alopecia areata universalis).

Your doctor can't predict if your hair loss will end at some point, or whether it will grow back. This is often the most difficult and frustrating part of the disease.

You may continue to lose hair, or your hair loss may stop. The hair you have lost may or may not grow back, and you may or may not continue to develop new bare patches....Read more about Alopecia Areata
NIH - National instititue of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Treatments for alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis

There is no good trial evidence that any treatments provide long‐term benefit to patients with alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

Personal Wireless Device Use for Wound Care Consultation: A Review of Safety, Clinical Benefits and Guidelines [Internet]

Wounds may result from physical, mechanical, or thermal damage, or develop from an underlying medical disorder and include conditions such as pressure ulcers, lacerations, burns, arterial or venous ulcers, and dermatological disorders. Wound care involves accurate assessment and appropriate management strategies and may require specialist consultations which may not always be easily accessible or may be time consuming. Telemedicine offers an alternative option. It is the delivery of health care through telecommunication between the patient with or without the local health care provider and remotely situated specialists. Technology used for telemedicine can range from a simple telephone conversation with the health care provider to complex systems with elaborate consultations with remote specialists at various locations, through live audio or videoconferencing. Telemedicine has been used in various clinical areas such as psychiatry, ophthalmology, and dermatology. Teledermatology consultation has been shown to be reliable and comparable to conventional clinic-based care. Imaging of the wound, uploading images and transferring them to the appropriate location play an important role in wound care involving telemedicine. The advent of high resolution digital cameras, computer technology, and specialized software has revolutionized the process of documentation of wounds. In recent times, personal wireless devices such as mobile phones are increasingly being used as a telemedicine technology. Mobile phones now have in-built cameras and data transfer capabilities and are often referred to as smartphones. The transmission of medical images and other data over mobile phone networks may facilitate remote medical consultations with specialists and enhance wound care management. However the safety and clinical efficacy of this modality of care needs to be assessed before it may be put in to widespread use.

Psoriasis: Assessment and Management of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common, chronic disease, which for many people, is associated with profound functional, psychological and social morbidity and important comorbidities. Effective treatments are available. Some treatments are expensive; all require appropriate monitoring and some may only be accessed in specialist care settings. Evidence indicates that a substantial proportion of people with psoriasis are currently dissatisfied with their treatment.

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Summaries for consumers

Treatments for alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis

There is no good trial evidence that any treatments provide long‐term benefit to patients with alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

Terms to know

Alopecia (Hair Loss)
The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found.
Alopecia Areata Totalis
The total loss of hair on the scalp.
Alopecia Areata Universalis
The loss of all hair from the head and the body.
Autoimmune Disease
Disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. Examples include multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Cicatricial Alopecia
A group of rare disorders that destroy hair follicles. The follicles are replaced with scar tissue, causing permanent hair loss.
Hair Follicle
The hair follicle is a tube-shaped sheath that surrounds the part of the hair that is under the skin and nourishes the hair.
Immune System
The body's system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substances.

More about Alopecia Areata

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Alopecia circumscripta, Circumscribed alopecia, AA

Other terms to know: See all 7
Alopecia (Hair Loss), Alopecia Areata Totalis, Alopecia Areata Universalis

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