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What causes alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is thought to be an auto-immune disease. The immune system makes white blood cells (lymphocytes) and antibodies to attack bacteria, viruses, and other ‘germs’. If you have an auto-immune disease, your immune system ‘mistakes’ part or parts of your body as foreign. In people with alopecia areata, many white blood cells gather around the affected hair roots (hair follicles) which are mistaken as ‘foreign’. This causes some mild inflammation which leads in some way to hairs becoming ‘weak’ and fall out to cause the bald patches.

It is not known why it is common for only certain areas of the scalp to be affected. Also, the affected hair follicles are not destroyed. Affected hair follicles are capable of making normal hair again if the immune reaction goes and the situation returns to normal.

It is not known why alopecia areata or other auto-immune diseases occur. It is thought that something triggers the immune system to react against the body’s own tissues. Possible triggers include: viruses, infection, medicines, or other environmental factors. There is also an inherited factor which makes some people more prone to auto-immune diseases. About 1 in 4 people with alopecia areata have a close relative who is also affected.

If you have alopecia areata you also have a slightly higher than average chance of developing other auto-immune diseases such as thyroid disorders, pernicious anaemia and vitiligo. (However, it is important to stress that most people with alopecia areata do not develop any of these other conditions.)

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 16th, 2008 at 11:56 am and is filed under ALOPECIA AREATA. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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