Last edited 10/2022 and last reviewed 10/2022
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
- 40-50% of people develop their first hair loss before 21 years of age, and 20% of people after 40 years of age (1)
- affects approximately 2% of the general population at some point during their lifetime (2)
- most patients develop the condition before the age of 40 years with the with a mean age of onset between 25 and 36 years (2)
- early-onset alopecia areata (mean age of onset between ages 5–10 years) predominantly presents as a more severe subtype, such as alopecia universalis (2)
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).
- Clinical Knowledge Summaries. Alopecia areata (Accessed 6/10/22)
- Pratt CH, King LE Jr, Messenger AG, Christiano AM, Sundberg JP. Alopecia areata. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2017 Mar 16;3:17011.