September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month! Anyone can be a superhero for alopecia—so put your cape on and do something about alopecia!
The word alopecia means bald, and areata means patch. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp, face, and elsewhere on the body. The hair loss can be patchy, or it can be over much or all of the body. Learn more about types of alopecia areata here.
Alopecia areata is a surprisingly common disease. It affects as many as 6.7 million people in the U.S. alone. About 2% of people across the world will experience alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is diagnosed based on your symptoms (hair loss and pattern). In addition, your doctor will want to take a family history and your medical history to rule out other things that could cause hair loss. To learn more about the diagnosis of alopecia areata, click here.
Anyone at any age can develop alopecia areata. It does, however, often start in childhood. Parenting a child with the disease can be challenging. To learn about children with alopecia areata and issues related to parenting, click here.
Unlike most autoimmune diseases, alopecia areata does not generally cause physical discomfort or disability. However, hair loss can be difficult for many people, affecting how they feel about themselves, especially if it is extensive. Different people have different ways of coping with their hair loss. Some wear wigs or use camouflage techniques to hide the bald areas, while others don’t bother hiding it. Click here to learn more about living with alopecia areata, including possible psychological and emotional effects of the disease.
Most children with alopecia areata do not have a parent with the disease, and most parents with alopecia areata do not pass it along to their children. While alopecia areata does run in some families, both genetic and environmental factors that are not well understood are thought to play a role in whether the disease appears. Even in identical twins, who share all the same genes, if one twin has the disease, there is only a 55% chance that the other twin will have it.
We’ve all heard stories about people surviving a trauma only to see their hair turn gray or fall out. It is possible to lose hair after a trauma, particularly a severe, life-threatening illness, but this is not alopecia areata. It is called telogen effluvium.
NAAF was established in 1981 to fill a need for people affected by alopecia areata. The foundation provides many services. These are just a few:
-Provides support to people who live with or who care for people with alopecia areata
-Raises funds and awards research grants to study alopecia areata with the hope of developing effective treatments and ultimately a cure
-Acts as the international center for alopecia areata information
-Educates State and Federal officials on the need for fair insurance laws and greater government-sponsored medical research
To learn more about NAAF, click here.
Absolutely! NAAF encourages people to join because the more robust the numbers, the more can be done. NAAF brings together thousands with alopecia areata worldwide to reassure one another, encourage research, and end the disease. If you have alopecia areata, NAAF can help you, you can help NAAF, and you can help yourself.
Click here to learn how you can be part of NAAF.
Doctors who specialize in skin conditions treat alopecia areata. When looking for a dermatologist, look for one who is board-certified in dermatology.
Alopecia areata is unpredictable. Some people even have spontaneous hair regrowth without doing anything. There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are treatments that may be helpful. However, how well they work varies from person to person.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications, Olumiant® (baricitinib) and LITFULO® (ritlecitinib), to treat alopecia areata. Both medications are known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, a class of medications that have been around for a number of years and are used for other conditions, like psoriasis or eczema. Other potential treatments are either in the research stage or are close to going to the FDA for review. To learn more about treatments, click here.
NAAF has a Doctor Finder function that allows people to look for dermatologists who treat alopecia areata. The list will become more robust as more dermatologists are added. Click here for the Doctor Finder.