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Alopecia Areata can be treated

Alopecia areata hits one in every 50 Americans during their lifetime according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The affliction, which makes people lose patches of hair in mild cases and all head or body hair in the worst, has a variety of causes.

“It’s often a strong emotional thing,” said Dr. Haines Ely, a Grass Valley dermatologist who sees alopecia areata patients quite regularly. That could be a divorce, the loss of a job or any other life trauma.



It also has ties to heredity, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Twenty percent of those who have the condition have another family member who is afflicted.

Families with hay fever, asthma or eczema are prone to the condition, as are those with lupus, arthritis, Addison’s disease, diabetes and thyroid conditions, the association said.




Scientists think alopecia areata occurs when white blood cells attack hair follicles by mistake. That causes the follicles to become tiny and less likely to grow at a normal rate. Alopecia areata can hit anywhere on the body, including men’s beards. But most often it shows up as small spots of hair loss.

If you find clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower, “you should see a dermatologist,” Ely said. “It usually can be stopped and most often it grows back.”

The condition has no discrimination, striking both sexes and people of all colors or ethnic backgrounds, according to the national dermatology academy. Because men often go bald naturally or even shave their heads, the condition is not as mentally tough on them as it is on women.

The national foundation which collects data for research of the condition said it can be “psychologically devastating,” for women, who can benefit from strong support. Sometimes counseling is advised to help live with the affliction.

In an article written for the American Family Physician magazine in March of 2003, Dr. Carolyn Thiedke said most women who get the affliction have no side effects to their fertility, despite the psychological blow of losing hair. In many cases, they are in great health condition otherwise, according to the national foundation.

Many people simply wear a wig to take care of alopecia areata because there is no full cure. However, cortisone scalp injections, salves and creams can be prescribed and often help in mild conditions.

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

For more on the affliction, see these Web sites:

• National Alopecia Areata Foundation: http://www.naaf.org

• American Academy of Dermatology: http://www.aad.org

• The Skin Site: http://www.skinsite.com


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