what is it?
This cannot be explained before looking at the growth cycle of the human hair follicle. There are different stages or phases of this cycle and these are commonly known as Anagen, growing phase, Catogen, the transitional phase, and Telogen, the resting phase.
Each phase has its period of time and whilst there are a small number of hairs in the resting phase, (approx. 5%) these are the hairs being shed on a daily basis, a few more are in the transitional phase (approx. 8%) and the main mass of our hair (approx. 87%) is in the anagen growing phase which can last from three to ten years. This is variable from country to country; very few adults grow hair to the floor with most populations growing hair to the shoulders or waist. Hair grows at different rates across the head, this tells us that each follicle is a separate unit and can act on its own or collectively, reflecting body changes.
During alopecia areata hairs fall out when they are in the anagen phase of the growth cycle, but the cycle is still on-going, and when the transition or catogen phase starts there is a response, and at this time interestingly the colour pigment production ceases. The telogen, resting phase, as always, allows the hair to fall, but once the anagen phase kicks in it goes no further and the follicle returns to the resting, telogen phase, hence no hair.
This seems to be the reason why the follicle is not destroyed and is ready to grow a hair when the right conditions prevail and allow the cycle to follow a 'normal' pattern once again. Although the person suffering from alopecia areata may not think there is anything happening, in the majority of cases, the follicle carries on completing its imperfect cycles until the trigger allows the system to start up the normal cycle again.
This term describes a condition when there is a total loss of scalp hair. However, mechanisms are still in place in the follicle for them to grow whenever the body decides to do so. Hair replacement in the form of a wig or hair piece is suggested until regrowth. Keeping the scalp cleansed and free from flaking/dry skin is necessary as build up of scale must be avoided. Fresh air and sunlight, not in excess, are of prime importance due to the therapeutic nature of both.
A term used when the hairs across the whole body have been shed. This includes eye lashes, eye brows and fine hairs throughout.