Alopecia Areata is the sudden appearance of round or oval patches of hair loss. These patches are completely slick bald or smooth without any signs of inflammation, scaling, or broken hairs. They can appear literally overnight, or sometimes over a few days. These patches, if left untreated, can result in complete hair loss on the scalp. Although it is likely not permanent hair loss, it has been known to completely eradicate some areas of hair.
Alopecia areata is thought to be caused by the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles. Stress is typically not a factor in an alopecia areata diagnosis. At any given moment, about 1 in 1,000 children has this diagnosis. About 25% of these children will also have pitting or ridging of the nails. One in five children who have alopecia have a family member with the same condition.
With appropriate treatment, a large percentage of patients will have all of their hair back within one year — many will have it sooner. Children with this condition should be under the care of a dermatologist. About 5% of children with alopecia areata will go on to develop alopecia totalis — the loss of all the hair on the scalp. Some of these will develop alopecia universalis — the complete loss of body hair.