The incidence of alopecia areata is highest in the age group of 15-60. Symptoms are not seen in children younger than three years and in people after 60 years of age. One of the most characteristic symptoms of alopecia is sudden appearance of a patch of baldness right amidst an otherwise normal looking scalp with usual type of hair growth.
General physical appearance
Sometimes mild burning or itchiness is felt at the site of baldness and following symptoms may be present.
- Sudden onset of baldness/hair fall.
- Large coin sized round/oval shaped bald patch/patches.
- Some scaling.
- Smooth looking normal or slightly red colored (erythematous) patches.
- Short hair – fractured hair.
- Yellow color skin deposit around hair roots/follicles.
- Fine looking thin, grey or white hair.
- Exclamation mark like hair (tapered near the end).
- Affects hand and toe nails – dents, white spots, lines appear; look dull, thin, pitted and split.
Types of alopecia
Physical appearance and other symptoms generally vary from person to person. In some cases, there may be totally no symptoms.
Alopecia areata can be classified into
- Patchy alopecia areata – patches with baldness.
- Ophiais pattern alopecia areata – localized and limited to sides and lower back of scalp.
- Sisaipho pattern alopecia areata – spread to areas other than sides and back of scalp.
- Diffuse alopecia areata – spread out type of baldness.
- Reticulate pattern.
- 80% patients may have just one single patch.The patch is asymptomatic and noticed by a relative or a hair dresser.
- Bald patches appear on scalp at various places at various times.
- Small bald patches appear and merge to form a bigger patch of baldness.
- Patches and episodes of baldness are self-limited.
- Some times spreads to eyebrows, eyelashes and beard areas (male).
- No connection or predictability about severity and number of patches during onset.
Alopecia totalis – complete/widespread hair loss on scalp
- Total hair loss within 6 months of disease onset.
- Sometimes alopecia areata turns into alopecia totalis.
Alopecia universalis –
- Complete loss of hair from entire body – quite rare.
It is quite difficult to predict how alopecia areata may progress. Some patients have just one bald area of baldness, some have more. But in severe cases of alopecia areata, nails are affected with pitting and seen as one of the most common symptoms. Even though most people get their hair back completely within one year or so without any treatment, treatment is considered for cosmetic and psychological reasons.
- American Academy of Dermatology – Alopecia Areata: Signs and Symptoms view
- MedicineNet – About Alopecia view
- Patient.co.uk (Original Author: Dr Tim Kenny) view
- National Institue of Health – Questions and Answers about Alopecia Areata view
- Dermatology – About.com (Heather Brannon, MD) view
- Medscape – Drugs, Diseases and Procedures [Alopecia Areata – Author: Chantal Bolduc, MD, FRCP(C); Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD] view