Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disease
that results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere. It usually starts
with one or more small, round, smooth patches. It occurs in males and females
of all ages and races, but onset most often occurs in childhood. It is
estimated that approximately two percent of the population will be affected at
some point in their lives, or over 4.5 million people in the United States.
alopecia areata, the affected hair follicles are mistakenly attacked in groups
by a person's own immune system (white blood cells), resulting in the arrest of
the hair growth stage. These affected follicles become very small, drastically
slow down production, and grow no hair visible above the surface for months or
years. The scalp is the most commonly affected area, but the beard or any
hair-bearing site can be affected alone or together with the scalp. Some people
develop only a few bare patches that regrow hair within a year. In others,
extensive patchy loss occurs, and in a few, all scalp hair is lost (referred to
as alopecia totalis) or, hair is lost from the entire scalp and body (referred
to as alopecia universalis). No matter how widespread the hair loss, the hair
follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they
receive the appropriate signal. In all cases, hair regrowth may occur even
without treatment and even after many years.
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