alopecia areata

FREE subscriptions for doctors and students... click here
You have 3 more open access pages.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a relatively common condition which may occur at any age in either sex. The prevalence of Alopecia areata in the UK population is around 0.15%.

It is a non-scaring condition which can affect:

  • the hair follicles - damage is not permanent
  • the nails - 10-30% of patients (1)

Alopecia areata can be categorized according to extent or pattern of hair loss

  • Patchy - most common presentation with limited hair loss
  • Extensive - over 50% hair loss
  • Alopecia totalis - total loss of hair on the scalp
  • Alopecia universalis - total loss of body hair
  • Diffuse hair loss - can be seen occasionally

The cause is thought to be an autoimmune phenomenon as often; there is a co-existing autoimmune disease e.g. pernicious anaemia, thyroid disorders, vitiligo, diabetes.

There are lymphocytic infiltrates around the follicles, and a high prevalence of autoantibodies and abnormalities on the titres of circulating T lymphocytes (1).

Children and adolescents are affected more commonly with a peak age of onset between 15 and 29 years of age. In around 25% of the patients, a positive family history can be found (1).

Click here for example images of this condition


Last reviewed 01/2018