Embarrassing Illnesses - Alopecia - Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

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Lauren Engle was just 28 when she noticed her hair falling out. As her strands got thinner, her part line widened and her ponytail shrunk to the thickness of a pencil. When she saw more scalp showing, she knew she had a problem. Engle, who lives in Dallas, Texas, is far from alone.

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Millions of women in the U. Their hair is oftentimes their crowning glory.

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August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month — an effort to bring attention to a condition that can cause "dramatic and devastating" emotions in patients, dealing a blow to their self-esteem, body image and self-confidence, the American Academy of Dermatology notes. In the case of alopecia areata, it targets hair follicles, Glashofer said. Almost 7 million people in the U.

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The trigger is a mystery. Margaret Staib, 49, still remembers the questions swirling in her head when she was diagnosed. What did I eat? Will it grow back? Will my husband still love me and find me attractive?

That might change in the next couple of years as researchers develop new pills and creams based on a class of compounds called JAK inhibitors that might be the first official medications specifically for alopecia areata. These drugs were originally used for rheumatoid arthritis and, by coincidence, it was discovered that some patients who took it for that condition and who also had alopecia aerata grew their hair back.

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Clinical trials are underway to see how safe and effective this option is, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation says. For now, therapies include cortisone injections directly into the bald patches; topical cortisone; Minoxidil — known to many people under the brand name Rogaine; and anthralin cream. A less-widely available option is topical immunotherapy: certain chemicals applied to the scalp can trigger an allergic rash, which alters the immune response, NAAF notes. What happens is that the immune system attacks the hair follicles structures that contain the roots of the hair , causing hair loss.

This disease most often occurs in otherwise healthy people.

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Most often hair loss occurs mostly on the scalp, but it can also involve eyebrows, eyelashes and beards. Patches can be small or large.

Some lose all their body hair, too. This is not common. Also uncommon is a band of hair loss at the back of the scalp. Nails can have tiny pinpoint dents pitting. They also can have white spots or lines, be rough, lose their shine, or become thin and split. Rarely nails change shape or fall off. Scientists suspect that genetics play a part in having a higher risk for alopecia areata.

Alopecia means hair loss – patchy or total it can be embarrassing

Often people with a family history of other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis develop the disorder. Your primary care provider may be able to diagnose alopecia areata by just looking at the hair loss. Or, he or she may pull out a few hairs to look at under a microscope. Sometimes a skin biopsy is required.

In that case your PCP or dermatologist will remove a small piece of skin to be studied under the microscope as well.