Is Alopecia Areata caused due to psychological factors?

ADVANCED HAIR STUDIO

Is Alopecia Areata caused due to psychological factors?

  • 08 February 2020
  • Hair Experts @ AHS
  • 4 min. read

Alopecia areata refers to a particular autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss in patches. Sometimes, the bald patches can grow larger, covering the whole scalp. This condition is called alopecia totalis.

In more extreme cases, alopecia can cover the whole body leading to total hair loss throughout the body. This condition is called alopecia Universalis. Although treatment for alopecia is available, the condition cannot be cured though.

However, like other autoimmune diseases, there are several treatment options available that can arrest the disease. For many sufferers of alopecia areata, the emotional cost of hair loss is far greater than the disease itself.

This is because a person suffering from alopecia is a perfectly healthy person who has no other complications. However, the social embarrassment caused by hair loss is so great that people often retract into isolation and refuse to interact with others.

In this blog, we take a look at whether or not alopecia is caused by psychological factors and what we can do about it.

Types of Alopecia Areata

The different types of alopecia areata are characterized by the extent of hair loss and other symptoms. Each type may also have a different treatment to cure it.

  1. Alopecia areata (patchy)

    The main characteristic of this type of alopecia areata is one or more patches of hair loss on the scalp, skin or other parts of the body.

  2. Alopecia totalis

    If one or more patches on the scalp expand across the entire scalp it may become alopecia totalis.

  3. Alopecia Universalis

    Alopecia Universalis is a condition that expands from the scalp to other parts of the body having hair. In addition to the scalp, people also lose hair on the face i.e. eyebrows and eyelashes. There is also a possibility that other body parts like chest, back, and pubic hair also lose hair.

  4. Diffuse alopecia areata

    Diffuse alopecia areata Is sudden and unexpected thinning of hair all over the scalp, which looks more or less like a female-pattern or male-pattern hair loss.

  5. Ophiasis alopecia

    In Ophiasis alopecia hair loss occurs in the form of a band along the sides and lower back of the scalp.

Alopecia areata in males

Alopecia areata in males

Alopecia areata is a condition that occurs in both men and women. The loss of hair is likely to be more significant in men than in women. Family history and stress can be the major causes of this hair loss condition. In men, hair loss can be seen in their facial hair, scalp, chest, and back hair.

The male-pattern baldness, in which gradual thinning of hair takes place is different from Alopecia areata as this causes patchy hair loss.

Alopecia areata in females

Alopecia areata in females

Females are more likely to develop alopecia areata than males. The hair loss can take place on the scalp, eyebrows, and lashes.

Alopecia areata is confined to a smaller area when compared to female-pattern hair loss, which is a gradual thinning of hair that covers a large area. The hair loss can take place gradually or may occur all at once.

Alopecia areata in children

Alopecia areata in children

Children can also develop the condition of alopecia areata. The hereditary components can be the main cause of alopecia areata but it is not always necessary that parents with this condition always pass it on to a child. In addition to hair loss, children may also experience nail defects like lesions which are more common in children than in adults.

Children younger than age 5 don’t experience too much emotional impact from this condition but after 5 years, the impact of hair loss can be a cause of trauma in young children as they start noticing how they’re different from others.

Is alopecia areata caused due to psychological factors?

Alopecia areata is one of the several autoimmune diseases that exist. An autoimmune disease is one where the immune system attacks its cells causing damage. In alopecia areata, the body attacks its hair cells, thinking it to be foreign bodies.

While it is difficult to assess what triggers alopecia, scientists believe that it is a complex polygenic disease. A polygenic disease is one where different cells react to trigger the disease. Scientists have identified several genes that may be responsible for this disease.

However, it is still difficult to say as to what exactly triggers the disease. Currently, there is no evidence that alopecia areata is caused due to psychological factors although the disease itself can alleviate stress levels.

What are the Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

What are the Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

  • The first sign of alopecia areata is that hair loss occurs in patches on the scalp, the beard area in men, and on other parts of the body like the eyelashes and the eyebrows.
  • Sometimes white and grey hair follicles appear on the area from where hair loss has been reported. This is another symptom of alopecia areata.
  • Furthermore, hair loss can also be diffused in nature. For in diffuse alopecia areata, hair loss does not occur in patches. It usually occurs in a diffused way throughout the scalp.

Home Remedies for Alopecia Areata

Treatment for alopecia areata contains a few home remedies as well:

  • Onion: Onion contains sulfur that reduces free radicals inside the body and promotes hair regrowth.
  • Coconut oil: Nutrients like vitamins K and E and iron present inside coconut oil is great for regrowing hair. Apply it overnight and wash it off the next morning.
  • Honey: It is great for regrowing hair on the scalp and for cleaning the scalp. This also prevents infections on the scalp.
  • Garlic: People with alopecia should also consider rubbing garlic juice on the scalp. Garlic is loaded with essential minerals such as sulfur, zinc, and calcium. Garlic extract is also used in various treatments for alopecia areata that are available in the market.

What is the Best Treatment for Alopecia Areata?

The course of alopecia areata is not predictable. The longer the time period of hair loss, the larger the area involved. Therefore, there are a variety of baldness treatments that may be very helpful in restarting the hair growth cycle in treated areas. In addition to it, the elimination of emotional stress is felt to be helpful in getting away with this problem.

Following are commonly used as treatments:

  • Corticosteroid injections

    Corticosteroid is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that can be used to grow hair. The steroid is directly injected into the bald spots. This helps in regrowing hair but does not stop the relapse of alopecia.

  • Topical immunotherapy

    Topical immunotherapy is used to treat extensive alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, and alopecia Universalis. In this, chemicals such as DPCP, DNCB and squaric acid are used on the affected areas that help in regrowing hair.

  • Immunomodulators

    Immunomodulatory drugs such as Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitors are the new treatment options that are being explored by doctors for regrowing hair on the bald spots.

Conclusion

Alopecia areata is a skin disease that affects the hair follicles. Unlike other diseases like telogen effluvium, alopecia is not self-induced. It is caused by a complex interaction between various genes. People with alopecia usually have a family history of this disease.

Doctors diagnose alopecia areata based on a scalp examination; no blood test is required. While there is no cure, various treatment options are available. These include JAK inhibitors, topical immunotherapy and corticosteroids. Despite chances of hair regrowth, there is no guarantee that the bald spots will not reappear.

For those who would like to get long term relief from hair loss due to alopecia, we recommend that they take an appointment with their nearest Advanced Hair Studio. Our hair experts will examine your condition and advice the best way forward.

FAQs on Alopecia Areata

Is Alopecia Areata permanent?

Alopecia areata can become permanent if not treated at the early stages. In extreme cases, alopecia areata can turn into alopecia Universalis or totalis, which is difficult to treat.

What triggers alopecia areata?

Doctors do not know for sure as to what triggers alopecia although they have isolated several genes that are responsible for this skin disease.

How do you stop alopecia spreading?

Treatment options like topical immunotherapy, corticosteroids and over-the-counter medicines are available that can help you to stop alopecia areata.

Is alopecia caused by stress?

There is no direct evidence to suggest that alopecia is caused by stress, though people suffering from the disease have been observed to be depressed, anxious, hysterical, hypochondriac and introverted individuals.

Does exercise help alopecia?

While exercise, in general, can help the body, there is no evidence that it can stop or prevent alopecia.

What foods help alopecia?

Garlic, onion, avocado, honey, and coconut oil can help to regrow hair. They are considered to be effective home remedies for hair loss due to alopecia.

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I have done my hair transplant surgery in AHS Delhi Branch on 2019 by travelling to Delhi from Dhaka, Bangladesh. The front and the back portion of my head were bald and through the hair transplant surgery, they have managed to cover the front portion of my head and the former appearance of my face returned back. The way they collected hairs from the donor portion did not affect my donor area at all. I am quite happy with my result. I have been consulting with them for a second seating so that they can cover the back portion of my head as well so that the hair density on top will increase and the bald portion of my head will reduce to a minimum level.
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