What is Alopecia?
Alopecia Areata, also known as spot baldness, is an autoimmune disorder that causes sudden hair loss. The most common type of alopecia areata affects only some spots in the scalp or body whereas there are rarer variants like alopecia total is where all the hair in the scalp will be lost and alopecia universalis where all the hair in the scalp and body will be lost. In many cases, hair loss will be temporary with all the hair growing back quickly. However, there are cases where it will never grow back and with more spots/areas experiencing hair loss. Alopecia areata occurs amongst both men and women and are typically seen in people below 30 years of age.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder which means the body’s immune system attacks and destroys body’s own cells mistaking it to be foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria. In the case of alopecia, the immune system attacks hair follicles, organs in the skin, which are responsible for hair growth. This causes hair follicles to stop producing hair causing spot baldness or alopecia. The exact reason for the immune system to act in this way is not known to modern medicine so far.
Alopecia seem to occur in people who have family history of this condition earlier. It is also seen more in people who have Type 1 diabetes and/or rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of Alopecia Areata
The most common symptom is sudden hair loss which can develop in just a few days. Some people experience itching and burning sensation in the areas before hair loss. Alopecia areata also affects finger and toe nails. Symptoms include dents or white spots/lines in the nails, nails becoming rougher, thinner and seem to lose shine.
Almost one third of the people who had alopecia will see it getting extended to other areas and also see that condition recurs even after hair grows back.
Diagnosing Alopecia Areata
It is very easy to diagnose alopecia areata due to the easy visibility of hair loss in the body or scalp. However, doctors may conduct some tests including scalp biopsy to rule out fungal infections and also some blood tests to rule out other disorders.
Treatment is to prevent further hair loss and mainly involves application of medicine like minoxidil solution in scalp. Other treatments include steroid injections and corticosteroids. Photochemotherapy is a procedure used to promote hair growth through radiation treatment using ultra violet rays. Most of the medications used for alopecia can have severe side effects and so care should be taken while using these medicines. Doctor needs to be updated about the full medical history so that appropriate medicines will be prescribed.
Alopecia Ayurvedic Treatment
Ayurveda is an ancient medical system which has been in existence for more than 3000 years and is still practiced commonly in India. Ayurveda texts have detailed references for all kinds of ailments affecting people and these are classified according to the affected area, cause and symptoms. Alopecia is classified under ‘shiro rogas’ and is known as ‘Khalitya’ and/or ‘Indralupta’ in Ayurveda texts.
Ayurveda views a healthy body constitution as one where the three doshas Vata (governing circulation and air flow), Pitta (metabolism and digestion) and Kapha (lubrication and shape forming) are in balance. Imbalance in the doshas manifests as diseases. Ayurveda views alopecia as a primarily pitta aggravated disorder even though vata and kapha are also vitiated. Excessive intake of certain food items like caffeine, alcohol and smoking causes pitta dosha to vitiate which gets accumulated in the hair follicles causing alopecia.
Alopecia ayurvedic treatment is primarily to correct pitta imbalance. As Ayurveda views hair to be grown from the bones, bone strengthening medication and therapies will also be administered. The line of treatment includes oil massages, Nasya (nasal instillation), Sirodhara (pouring medicated oil over head), paste application over the scalp, oil and decoction enemas. Ayurvedic treatment for alopecia will typically be around 14-21 days in Ayurveda hospital. Cost of alopecia treatment in Ayurveda hospitals will generally be around 900 to 1,300 USD and would vary based on the type of hospital, duration of treatment etc.