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What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is a common 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, but onset most often occurs in childhood. Over four million people in the United States are affected by alopecia areata.

In alopecia areata, the affected hair follicles become very small, drastically slow down production, and grow no hair visible above the skin’s 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.

The diagnosis of alopecia areata from a dermatologist usually follows weeks or months of shock, fear and confusion. The gradual hair loss associated with the disease can be discovered in many ways; unusual amounts of hair on a pillow, clumps of hair clogging the shower drain, a bald patch felt when putting hair up, or a comment made by a hair dresser. Regardless, days of internet searches ensued, resulting in a doctor’s visit.

Though there are no two cases of alopecia areata exactly the same, the discovery of the hairloss and the diagnosis of the disease can cause very similar feelings in all patients. It is important to recognize that the majority of individuals with alopecia areata do have patchy alopecia areata, hair loss which presents in patches and experiences regrowth without treatment. However, NAAF understand the concern associated with all types of hair loss, and has programs designed to meet the needs of all alopecia areata patients.

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