is a type of auto-immune disorder that causes sudden, patchy hair loss on the scalp. Whilst scientists are still unsure what causes some people to develop alopecia areata (and it's estimated that around 2 per cent of people worldwide experience the condition) it does seem that there are many possible triggers.
One of the key, and possibly the best-known, cause of this autoimmune hair loss is stress
when it takes the form of a sudden shock or trauma. However, there are also thought to be many environmental causes of Alopecia Areata too.
Hair loss from alopecia areata occurs when the hair follicles prematurely enter the telogen (rest) phase of their cycle, before shedding. Whilst there are a few different options available for treating the condition's hallmark patchy hair loss
, at Belgravia this often involves using personalised treatment courses tailored around appropriate formulations of high strength minoxidil
. Even so, it is important to try and identify any environmental triggers that may be the root cause of the hair loss.
Chronic stress, hormones, sudden shocks and illness can all potentially lead to the autoimmune condition, but there are a number of triggers that occur outside of the body that can also be a factor. Below, we explore potential triggers to look out for.
Statistical analysis of Caucasians with alopecia areata and some form of chronic allergy (such as eczema) found that they tend to have more extensive or more prolonged hair loss. However, when a similar study was undertaken with participants of Indian descent, no such link emerged, which suggests that the different genetic composition of different races should be considered when explaining susceptibility to alopecia areata development. Allergies to dust mites were found to potentially trigger or exacerbate Alopecia Areata in a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. It was noted that, due to the trial solely comprising Chinese participants, the conclusion could only be drawn in relation to people of Chinese origin or descent.
An outbreak of alopecia areata in workers at a water treatment plant was linked by scientists to long term exposure to the chemical acrylamide. Other chemicals that have also been linked to the condition include formaldehyde and certain pesticides, but no clear connection has been established and the links remain theoretical. There has also been some suggestion of links between alopecia areata and medications or treatments, such as Zidovudine (used to treat HIV) and Fluvoxamine (an anti-depressant).
Many people with alopecia areata find that their hair loss can wax and wane with the seasons. It has been particularly noted that some find their hair loss is more extensive in the winter, with temporary regrowth occurring in the summer. It is worth noting that seasonal hair loss
also occurs in people without autoimmune disorders or hair loss conditions
Local skin injury
Cuts, scrapes, and other types of damage done to the scalp can lead to the onset of a patch of this type of hairloss in susceptible people. Interestingly, though, similar damage done to an area of the scalp that is already afflicted by alopecia areata can cause temporary hair regrowth, on account of injury promoting anagen hair follicle growth in skin around the injury site.