Alopecia results in hair falling out for no reason, creating some bald spots. This can occur on any hairy area of your body, but it’s most common on the scalp. In most cases, the spots are round or oval. Hair growth around these spots continues normally, making them very noticeable. Hair can start to take on an odd shape around the edges, where the hair is short and getting thinner. How this condition develops is very unpredictable. For example, the spots can appear out of nowhere, but they can disappear again after a while too. It’s also possible for the affected areas to recover, but that the spots will reappear elsewhere. In addition, the hair doesn’t always fall out in specific places, but can also equate to an overall even loss of hair. In very rare cases, the hair on the head falls out completely (alopecia totalis) or all hair and body hair falls out (alopecia universalis). What causes this is still unclear. It’s probably due to a disturbance in the immune system. It targets the hairs, because it sees the hairs as a threat. This suspicion has developed over time, as it’s more common in people who also have another autoimmune disease. Anyone can get alopecia, but it’s more common in young adults. Men get it just as often as women. It won’t have major consequences for your physical health, but it can affect your mental health. People can feel embarrassed as a result of this condition and will subsequently opt for less social contact. This can make people feel more gloomy.
Alopecia may result in you suffering from:
- Round or oval spots on your scalp or other parts of the body. Like on your pubic area, in your eyebrows, in your beard, on your legs, on your arms or in your armpits.
- Flaking of the skin.
- Loss of all your scalp and/or body hair.
- Deformation of your nails. These can split, ripple or dent.
- White hair when your hair grows back. These will go back to your normal hair colour again at a later stage.
These symptoms can make you feel insecure, anxious and/or gloomy.
There are various products available from either the chemist or pharmacy for bald spots due to alopecia. There are creams, lotions, shampoos and tablets. Whether these products actually work has not been proven. We would therefore recommend obtaining advice from your GP before using such a product. These products can also cause side effects. You could also opt for hiding your bald spots by wearing a hairpiece or by colouring your scalp.
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your GP the moment you notice you have one or more bald spots. He or she will examine the cause of your hair loss and see whether something can be done about it. If it becomes apparent your hair loss is caused by alopecia, we would recommend waiting for your hair to grow back. It grows back within a few months to years in most people. Your GP can refer you to a dermatologist if the spots haven’t disappeared after a year, or if the spots are getting worse. Your GP can refer you to another specialist, like a rheumatologist or internist, if the hair loss is caused by another autoimmune disease. Have you become gloomy or very anxious because of your symptoms? Then you should also get in touch with your GP. He or she can then work together with you to find out what you need to learn to deal with the condition. You can be referred to the practice nurse or a psychologist if necessary.