While alopecia is more commonly referenced nowadays, the understanding of the disease, Alopecia Areata, is still a mystery to some. To shed some light on the subject, we’ve compiled a list of the most common myths about Alopecia Areata and crushed them with a mighty punch of knowledge!
Alopecia Myth 1:
There is only one type of alopecia.
People tend to be under the assumption alopecia is just, well, hair loss. Interestingly enough, alopecia IS the medical term to describe any type of hair loss. However, there are actually several types of alopecia, each affecting different parts of the body and occuring for various reasons. The below list highlights the different types of alopecia, whether they are temporary or permanent, and what type of the body is affected.
- Alopecia Areata Patchy - Causes small, round patches of hair to fall out. Hair loss is usually temporary but can occur continuously over time.
- Alopecia Areata Totalis - Causes total hair loss on the scalp. This type of hair loss is also temporary.
- Alopecia Areata Universalis - Loss of hair on the entire body. Depending on the person’s history, this condition may be temporary or permanent.
- Traction Alopecia - Caused by tight hairstyles and hair pulling. This form of alopecia can be temporary if caught early. If not, continued stress on the scalp can lead to scarring or damage to the hair follicle.
- Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia/CCCA - CCCA can cause permanent hair loss due to follicle scarring if not caught early. While this form of alopecia is considered more common in middle-aged African American women, anyone can be susceptible.
- Androgenetic Alopecia - Also known as male or female pattern baldness, this form of alopecia refers to a degeneration of the hairline and is usually permanent. Those who experience Androgenetic Alopecia are most commonly genetically predisposed.
- Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia - This type of alopecia most frequently affects post menopausal women. With this type, a band of hair loss normally appears on the front and sides of the forehead and typically worsens over time.
Alopecia Myth 2:
With Alopecia Areata, you will exhibit other symptoms besides just hair loss.
Alopecia Areata is actually asymptomatic, leaving you with just one telling symptom: hair loss. No headaches, stomach pains, or muscle aches are attributed to Alopecia Areata. In some cases, Alopecia Areata may be present in places not clearly visible, (such as the back of the scalp) leaving the sufferer unaware hair loss has occurred.
Alopecia Myth 3:
Alopecia Areata can be cured.
Currently, there is no cure for Alopecia Areata. However, there are treatments available. Most treatment options revolve around corticosteroid creams or injections. Studies have shown corticosteroids do reduce the amount of hair loss and improve the rate of hair regrowth. Research is currently underway to test more treatment methods.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Alopecia Areata can occur at any age. It is very common to experience the effects as a child, then see no more hair loss until you reach your 20’s or 30’s. Alopecia Areata can "disappear" for no apparent reason, and hair can grow back. While it may not be active, it is not "cured." It. can resurface after long (or brief) periods of dormancy. Occurrences and trends of Alopecia Areata vary from person to person.
Alopecia Myth 4:
Alopecia Areata is a form of cancer.
Although some people may think Alopecia Areata is a type of cancer, this is simply not true. It is actually an autoimmune disorder. Your immune system is meant to protect you from illness. A healthy immune system should be working to target and help eliminate anything it deems as a threat, such as disease and infection. With an autoimmune disorder, your immune system exhibits a “friendly fire” mentality and begins targeting healthy cells, causing disorders such as Alopecia Areata, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Celiacs Disease, and may other illnesses. If an individual does begin experiencing hair loss due to Alopecia Areata, this can leave you susceptible to other autoimmune disorders in the future.
Alopecia Myth 5:
Stress is not a trigger of Alopecia Areata.
Stress is actually a major trigger of Alopecia Areata. Because stress places strain on your body, it can push your immune system to its limit. While most people’s immune systems may weaken and not be as effective in protecting your body from diseases, someone with an autoimmune disorder will notice their body is not only more prone to illnesses, but also that their immune system is now turning on their good cells, creating hair loss.
To try to avoid triggering your Alopecia Areata, it’s best to combat stress by avoiding stressful situations. While this might sound like we’re asking you to do the impossible (seriously, who can avoid stress all the time??), we recommend trying some tactics to manage stress levels such as meditation or maybe taking a walk. Other triggers to avoid may include added sugars, drinking alcohol, and smoking.
Alopecia Myth 6:
Alopecia Areata is contagious.
Not at all! Autoimmune disorders are actually passed on genetically and do not normally reveal themselves until other means, such as environmental or hormonal factors trigger them. While hormonal factors can be a trigger of Alopecia Areata in many women, environmental factors such as injury, emotional stress, or illness can also play a part in bringing about hair loss due to Alopecia Areata.
Alopecia Myth 7:
Alopecia Areata can be deadly.
While Alopecia Areata can be very stressful, it is definitely not a fatal disorder. However, as previously mentioned, autoimmune disorders such as Alopecia Areata can make you more likely to have other autoimmune issues, such as thyroid disease, so it important to keep this in mind.
While it can be difficult to understand the ins and outs of Alopecia Areata, we hope this post helps shed some light on the most common misconceptions. Have anything to add or any questions? Leave us a comment below!