The hair loss is in sharply defined areas, usually of the scalp or beard. There can be slight to severe itching, prior to the hair fall, or no irritation at all. For some there are very sore spots before the hair fall with redness and eruption of a pimple. The hair will usually grow back within two to four months showing hairs (maybe white to start with) in the middle of the area and grows outward to fill the patch. It must be said that most people with alopecia areata are in good health and have no other associated diseases.
One of the characteristic signs of AA is the presence of exclamation mark hairs, these are tiny hairs that have broken off, at a weakened point of the hair shaft, and can be seen around the edge of a patch that is still active, meaning hairs still falling.
What causes Alopecia Areata;
Alopecia Areata cannot be explained before looking at the growth cycle of the human hair follicle. There are different stages or phases of this cycle and these are commonly known as Anagen, growing phase, Catogen, the transitional phase, and Telogen, the resting phase.
Each phase has its period of time and whilst there are a small number of hairs in the resting phase, (approx. 5%) these are the hairs being shed on a daily basis, a few more are in the transitional phase (approx. 8%) and the main mass of our hair (approx. 87%) is in the anagen growing phase which can last from three to ten years. This is variable from country to country; very few adults grow hair to the floor with most populations growing hair to the shoulders or waist. Hair grows at different rates across the head, this tells us that each follicle is a separate unit and can act on its own or collectively, reflecting body changes.
During Alopecia Areata hairs fall out when they are in the anagen phase of the growth cycle, but the cycle is still on-going, and when the transition or catogen phase starts there is a response, and at this time interestingly the colour pigment production ceases. The telogen, resting phase, as always, allows the hair to fall, but once the anagen phase kicks in it goes no further and the follicle returns to the resting, telogen phase, hence no hair.
This seems to be the reason why the follicle is not destroyed and is ready to grow a hair when the right conditions prevail and allow the cycle to follow a ‘normal’ pattern once again. Although the person suffering from alopecia areata may not think there is anything happening, in the majority of cases, the follicle carries on completing its imperfect cycles until the trigger allows the system to start up the normal cycle again.
There are support groups around Hertfordshire-
Anyone of any age with alopecia, or supporting someone with alopecia, is very welcome. As an author who visits schools, Sue is CRB checked, but anyone under 16 should be accompanied by an adult. Whether you’ve just started to lose your hair or been living without it for decades, whether it’s alopecia areata or the full monty, and whether you keep it secret or go bareheaded, come along and feel free to be yourself.
We plan to meet 6 times a year, every other month, on a Sunday afternoon, 2 – 4.
There is nothing to pay to join the group. Alopecia UK has kindly supported the cost of the new venue for 2016 and refreshments will be provided.
Here is a copy of the Berkhamsted support group;
|Sunday 20th March 2016||2 – 4pm||Friends Meeting House 289 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 1AJ|
|Sunday 22nd May 2016||2 – 4pm||Friends Meeting House 289 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 1AJ|
|Sunday 17th July 2016||2 – 4pm||Friends Meeting House 289 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 1AJ|
|Sunday 25th September 2016||2 – 4pm||Friends Meeting House 289 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 1AJ|
|Sunday 27th November 2016||2 – 4pm||Friends Meeting House 289 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 1AJ|