If you have noticed your hair falling out in small, random patches, you might have a condition known as alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune disorder typically affecting hair on the scalp, but it can manifest in other parts of the body too.

What is Alopecia Areata?

Beyond its classification as an autoimmune disorder—when the body attacks itself—and its symptoms (irregular hair loss), doctors know very little else about this condition.  As an autoimmune disease, though, alopecia areata shares similar characteristics as other autoimmune diseases—mainly that those with a family history of any autoimmune disease are more likely to be vulnerable to it.  Common familial autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis and T1 diabetes.

We know an autoimmune disorder is characterized by the body attacking itself. In alopecia areata, the disorder causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles. Scientists also speculate, though, that some environmental triggers may also influence the onset and severity of the condition.

How Do You Diagnose Alopecia Areata?

There are not many means for diagnosing Alopecia areata.  Obviously, observing irregular hair loss would be an initial sign, but Capilia doctors can perform a few medical tests to get a better idea of what is happening. Most of the time this would involve a blood test to look for abnormal immune response and/or a scalp biopsy which extracts cells from the scalp to analyze for evidence of the same abnormalities.

If you were to take a blood test, the doctors might also want to get a look at your iron levels, presence of the thyroid hormone, the level of free testosterone, and the overall level of testosterone circulating the body.

How Do You Treat Alopecia Areata?

As there is no known direct cause for the condition, doctors have also yet to determine a cure for alopecia areata. However, some hormone therapies may be helpful and some doctors may be advise a lifestyle change to see if it can promote better immune response in the body.  Hair loss medication—like Minoxidil (you may know it as Rogaine)–can be effective in treating the symptoms but steroid injections, corticosteroid creams, and photochemotherapy, might also have some merit.  Some nutritional supplements—and even acupuncture—might also help some people find relief.