Alopecia areata

Alternative Names

Alopecia totalis; Alopecia universalis

Definition of Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia. Alopecia areata may sometimes occur with autoimmune diseases.

Signs and tests

On occasion, a scalp biopsy may be performed. Several blood tests may be done, because alopecia areata may occur with autoimmune conditions.


No fully effective treatments are available. Typical therapy includes:

Expectations (prognosis)

Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:


Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 10/3/2008

Alopecia areata with pustules
Alopecia totalis - back view of the head
Alopecia totalis - front view of the head
Alopecia, under treatment

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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