Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune condition that’s caused by the immune system’s attack on hair follicles.
“Having a family member with alopecia areata increases one’s risk for developing the condition,” explains?Brittany Craiglow, MD, of Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut and associate adjunct professor of dermatology?at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven. “People who have atopic dermatitis (eczema), asthma, thyroid disease, vitiligo, and Down syndrome are also more likely to develop it.”
- Patchy alopecia areata
- Alopecia totalis
- Alopecia universalis
Read on to learn more about the types of alopecia areata, how common they are, and what their potential signs and symptoms may be.
Patchy Alopecia Areata
“Alopecia areata represents a spectrum of disease,” says Dr. Craiglow.?“Most people have mild, patchy disease with one or a few spots of hair loss, which are often round.”
11 Potential Causes of Hair Loss and Baldness
Other Types and Symptoms of Alopecia Areata
The primary forms of AA are patchy alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, and alopecia universalis, there are other important types to know, including diffuse and ophiasis forms. Also, AA can cause nail symptoms in some people.
Diffuse Alopecia Areata
“Diffuse alopecia areata presents itself as sudden thinning of the hair all over the scalp and is often confused with androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern hair loss) or telogen effluvium (temporary hair loss due to a trigger),” says Dr. Green.
Nail Changes in Alopecia Areata
- Extremely brittle nails, which may split
- Red-colored nails
- Pits or ridges in the nails
- Texture changes that are rough and may feel like sandpaper
AA is an autoimmune disease that causes mild to severe hair loss, which may have a gradual or sudden onset. Depending on the type you have, AA can cause either patchy or widespread hair loss on the scalp as well as other parts of the body.
“Hair loss can be reversible with early detection and treatment, although some forms of hair loss are irreversible,” says Green. She also stresses the importance of seeing a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Alopecia Areata. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. April 2021.
- Lee HH, Gwillim E, Patel KR, et al. Epidemiology of Alopecia Areata, Ophiasis, Totalis, and Universalis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. August 19, 2019.
- Alopecia Totalis. Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center. November 8, 2021.
- Alopecia Universalis. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. November 8, 2021.
- Alopecia Areata. American Academy of Family Physicians. July 2, 2021.
- Alopecia Areata. National Organization for Rare Disorders.
- Types of Alopecia Areata. National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
- Hair Loss Types: Alopecia Areata Signs and Symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology Association.