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Alopecia Areata, A Complex Condition

Alopecia Areata, a condition in which hair falls out in small quarter-sized patches, is thought to be auto-immune in origin, but what triggers it, causing the body’s white blood cell’s to attack hair follicles, remains uncertain.  Although scientists suspect that the nearly 2 percent of Americans who experience alopecia possess a combination of genes that predispose them to the condition, they still have questions about the role genes play.

Complicated Genetic Findings

Sometimes it appears that the more facts studies uncover, the less that is understood and the more tangled the genetic web becomes. The following is known:

  • Alopecia is more likely to occur in families where autoimmune conditions like lupus, thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis affect members.
  • Yet  while those who actually develop alopecia typically do not have the above mentioned autoimmune diseases, they often suffer from asthma, nasal allergies, and atopic eczema.
  • People with a close family member who had the disease have a slightly higher risk of developing it, and if that relative started losing hair before turning thirty, the risk increases.
  • Unlike genetic conditions where if a parent has it, the child will have a 50/50 chance of developing it, in the case of alopecia, it seems that it is unlikely that such a child would inherit the combination of genes that would pass it on to him. In fact, most parents with alopecia do not have children with alopecia, and conversely children who do have it do not have parents who did. Even if an individual does have  the right combination of genes, she only has a 55% chance of  suffering the effects of the disease as found in studies involving identical twins, one of which developed the disease while the other one didn’t.

This last finding, complicated as it may sound, does point scientists in the right direction. They need to find the missing piece of the puzzle. Given the right combination of genes something  triggers an attack on hair follicles, but what is it? An environmental pollutant, stress, a virus? All are possibilities.

Treatment for Alopecia

Alopecia does not hurt, and while it does cause  the psychological pain that comes from having one’s hair fall out in patches, in most cases, those experiencing it are otherwise generally healthy. Although there is currently no cure for alopecia, a dermatologist in Palo Alto can give a victim a steroid shot or prescribe a topical steroidal cream to lessen the autoimmune response.  As for the hair growing back, that is always a possibility but even if it doesn’t minoxidil, a topical treatment can help restore a degree of temporary hair growth in 30% of patients.

Disclaimer: We are unable to guarantee any result, even though most of our patients do see success. The results of our services will vary greatly to each patient’s level of commitment and compliance with the program.

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