An autoimmune disease that deserves some real attention

Understanding alopecia areata begins with
answering some important questions. What is it?
Who is affected? How is it treated? We’ll start to
answer those questions below.

Woman with alopecia areata

About Alopecia Areata

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles at the root and causes hair to fall out. Typically, hair is protected from an immune system attack, but in alopecia areata, this protection is lost.

Who is affected by alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata can affect all ages, genders, and races/ethnicities. It affects both males and females at similar rates.

Often, the first signs of hair loss from alopecia areata occur between the ages of 25 and 36, but alopecia areata can occur at any age.

In the United States, nearly 7 million people are living with alopecia areata.

What types of alopecia areata are there?

There are different types of this autoimmune disease, including:

  • Patchy alopecia areata: Round patches of hair loss on the scalp
  • Alopecia totalis: Complete hair loss on the scalp
  • Alopecia universalis: Complete hair loss on the scalp and body

In addition to the scalp, people with alopecia areata may also lose hair from their:

  • Eyebrows
  • Eyelashes
  • Face
  • Nose
  • Body

How do dermatologists evaluate someone’s alopecia areata?

Dermatologists may look at:

  • The amount of hair loss
  • The location of the hair loss (scalp, body, eyebrows and/or eyelashes)
  • How long a person has had alopecia areata
  • How quickly a person lost their hair
  • The impact of alopecia areata on a person’s life

Are there other ways alopecia areata can affect the body?

The physical impact of alopecia areata—which can include the loss of eyebrows, eyelashes, and nose and body hair—may also result in:

  • Eye irritation due to sweat, water, or dust
  • Frequent runny nose and sneezing
  • Being more sensitive to temperature and sunburn

Some people with alopecia areata can also experience weakness or denting of the nails.

How is alopecia areata treated?

Dermatologists treat this autoimmune disease in a variety of ways. That’s why it’s important to talk to your dermatologist and decide on a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Until 2022, there were no FDA-approved prescription pills for alopecia areata.