Gone are the days when hair loss was considered a sign of ageing in men and women. As the trends are changing, so is the hair loss pattern. Each human being sheds 100 strands of hair as a part of the normal hair growth cycle. However, the moment the number crosses this threshold, it is a reason for worry.

Alopecia Areata – a disease more common than it should be

Alopecia, the medical term for hair loss, traces its origin to the Greek word alōpekía, which refers to mange, a skin condition in foxes. Alopecia Areata is a unique form of hair loss, which differs between men and women to a certain extent. It’s also an autoimmune disease, wherein the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

Since younger men and women are beginning to feel the wrath of this hair-based disease, there are a lot of different symptoms seen these days.

· Gradual hair thinning: It starts with a receding hairline in men, often resembling the shape of the letter M. Women usually retain their hairline but end up with thinning hair on the top of their head.

· Circular patchy spots: Some people find smooth, yet bald, patchy spots on the top of their head. This type of problem usually affects the scalp along with the beard and eyebrows as well. In some cases, the skin might be itchy, causing the hair to fall out.

What causes Alopecia Areata?

When the body’s immune system mistakes the hair follicles as a foreign entity, it begins to attack them. This, in turn, causes the hair follicles to fall out; since this is a lifelong issue, and is often inherited from either parent.

Geneticists regard this disease as a “complex polygenic disease”, which means that it’s mainly caused due to the ongoing interaction between multiple genes. More than 17 genes cause alopecia areata. Even though all genes are fixed right from birth, in some cases, the environment around us can trigger the individual instances.

There are some common causes of Alopecia Areata, which are as follows:

· Hormone imbalances: In women, pregnancy, menopause, childbirth and hysterectomy cause hormonal imbalances, which lead to alopecia areata in women.

· Vitamins and medications: Cancer chemotherapy, attacks hair follicles to kill fast-growing cancer cells in the body. Such medications include hair shedding as a side effect, along with high blood pressure and gout.

· Nutritional deficits: Eating disorders, dieting and lack of nutritional components in the body often lead to excessive hair loss, since the body does not get the required nutrition to sustain healthy hair growth.

· Aging: Age is another cause of hair loss, which is often also one of the major reasons for hair loss.

Apart from being a social stigma, Alopecia Areata has become one of the common reasons for stress amongst the youth today.

· Stress: Last but not least, stress plays an integral role in hair thinning and hair loss. Given the work-life balance these days, there is an undue pressure on people, which leads to Alopecia Areata.