Did you know as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. — 147 million people worldwide — are affected by alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease, causing hair loss on the scalp, face and sometimes other areas of the body. It affects as many as 6.8 million people in the United States. People of all ages, both sexes and all ethnic groups can develop alopecia areata. It often first appears during childhood and can be different for everyone who has it.
I’ve been experiencing hair loss for over a decade and only recently started speaking about it openly on social media. It took me years to come to terms with the diagnosis, because I did not want it to define me. However, I am realizing that defining alopecia areata is critical to raise awareness and break the stigma around hair loss in our society.
Some key points about alopecia areata:
- People with alopecia areata who have only a few patches of hair loss often experience a spontaneous, full recovery without the need for treatment.
- There is no cure for alopecia areata.
- One in five people with alopecia areata also has a family member who has experienced the condition.
- Alopecia areata often develops suddenly over the course of just a few days.
- There is little scientific evidence that alopecia areata is caused by stress.
With all forms of alopecia areata, your body’s own immune system attacks your healthy hair follicles, causing them to become much smaller and drastically slow down production to the point that hair growth may stop. Depending on which type and severity of the disease you have, you might experience hair loss in different areas and your hair loss and regrowth may be unpredictable for many years. Although, for some people, hair may also regrow in a few months. Currently, there is no cure for alopecia areata. But the good news is that even when your disease is “active,” your hair follicles remain alive. This means that your hair can grow back again — even after a long period of time and even if you have more than 50% hair loss.
Alopecia areata does not directly make people sick, nor is it contagious. It can, however, be difficult to adapt to emotionally. For many people, alopecia areata is a traumatic disease that warrants treatment addressing the emotional aspect of hair loss, as well as the hair loss itself.