Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder of the skin that results in partial or total hair loss. It is unpredictable, although often genetic and it usually begins in childhood. The disorder occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s hair follicles as if it were a disease, squeezing the follicles so that no more hair can grow. If your child is losing hair and developing round, smooth bald patches, he may have alopecia areata.
Hair loss before six months of age is almost never due to this autoimmune disorder; so do not be concerned with a baby this young- it is quite common for a newborn to lose some or all of his hair. Alopecia does often appear in childhood, however, and it can be psychologically devastating. Patches may appear and then grow back, only to reoccur later- it is a very erratic condition.
Although alopecia is a life altering condition and can be psychologically harmful to a child, it isn’t physically harmful. Other than hair loss, the only other symptoms appear to be ridges on the fingernails. Some people suggest that it is a virus or a bacteria that causes alopecia, as many have reported to have been sick before their first occurrence. There is no known cure for the condition.
Although approximately 5 million Americans suffer from alopecia areata, there is little knowledge of it amongst the public. Campaigns have been formed to bring awareness to it and to raise money to study the mysterious disorder. The fact that alopecia is not commonly known makes it even harder on people that suffer from it and must walk around bald. Women and children are especially treated with prejudice when they have no hair.
There are several people in the public eye that have alopecia. Actor Barry Corbin (Maurice, “Northern Exposure”) and NBA player Charlie Villanueva suffer from the condition and have become public spokesmen for further awareness. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation is a group dedicated to educating and raising awareness in the hopes that people with the condition can improve their daily lives.