There are three main forms of Alopecia. Alopecia Areata is the most common, and hence well-known, condition, resulting in sudden, patchy hair loss across the scalp. Although large areas of the scalp can be affected, it rarely results in total baldness. The other two are Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis. These result in total loss of the hair on the scalp, and can affect other body hair as well, depending on which condition you have.
Alopecia Totalis is an autoimmune disorder which effectively turns your own immune system against your hair follicles. It results in total hair loss on the scalp, and can affect eyebrows and eyelashes as well, but this is the extent of the condition. It does not cause thinning or shedding of any other form of body hair. However, Alopecia Totalis can affect nails as well as hair, causing them to become thin, brittle and ridged.
Beyond hair loss, Alopecia Totalis has no physical side effects. It does not induce pain or sickness and the quality of life for sufferers is generally not affected, except by the psychological implications that accompany any form of hair loss. The condition is not contagious, but is thought to have a genetic influence, so there is an increased chance that sons and daughters could face the same issues.
The majority of people with Alopecia Totalis tend to experience it before reaching 40 years of age, with about twice as many men as women suffering from the condition. It is not known what triggers Alopecia Totalis. Although it is thought to be genetically programmed, there is evidence that long-term chronic stress or a sudden shock can instigate the condition.
Alopecia Totalis has been known to cease on its own, although this is rare and many people prefer to seek treatment. Treatment usually focuses on a course of immunosuppressants, which work at calming the immune system to prevent it attacking the hair follicle. Side effects can be severe.
Alopecia Universalis is the rarest, and most severe, of all the forms of Alopecia. It results in total loss of hair across the scalp and body and can also damage and distort nails.
Sufferers of Alopecia Universalis have a genetic mutation in their chromosomes. The condition is something that is present from birth, although may not present itself until later on in life. It is difficult to treat, although some sufferers do spontaneously have hair grow back, even years after the onset of the condition.
The most effective treatment is Topical Immunotherapy, which creates an allergic reaction on the skin of affected areas to shock the hair follicles into production. Unfortunately, the treatment needs to be sustainable for hair growth to continue and the success rate is around 40%.
The Belgravia Clinic offers a personalised treatment plan for the early stages of Alopecia Areata, which can prove extremely successful depending on the severity of the condition. We are unable to advise on hair loss across the body, and recommend consulting your GP if you suspect you may be suffering from Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis. We also have a dedicated page where you can find out more about the current and potential treatments for Alopecia Totalis and Universalis.