What is patchy hair loss: Causes and treatment

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Patchy hair loss: Causes and treatment

Patchy hair loss can impact the scalp or even the entire body. Genetics, hormonal fluctuations, medical conditions, aging, etc., could be some of the factors contributing to hair loss. Patchy hair loss is known as Alopecia areata. This article will discuss alopecia areata, its causes, and available treatments are.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder, which causes hair to fall out in small patches. It could often be unnoticeable, temporary, or even permanent. It happens when the body’s immune system cannot recognize its cells and attacks the hair follicles, leading to hair loss. In some conditions, it extends from scalp hair to facial hair and body hair. It can develop suddenly or might even develop gradually over time.

Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that occurs in different areas of the body. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, hormonal imbalances, genetics, infections, and damage from the environment. Many find that the hair regrowth is uneven, clogged, and coarse.  Hair does grow back again, but there is also a possibility of hair fall again. The seriousness of hair loss and regrowth differs from person to person.

Causes of alopecia areata

As we know, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that is developed when the immune cells do not recognize our body cells and take them as foreign bodies. Since the immune system fights against the foreign body, immune cells attack their cells in conditions of autoimmune disorder, considering them as foreign bodies.

In alopecia areata, immune cells attack hair follicles, making them smaller and stops hair production, which causes hair loss. Precise reasons for alopecia areata are unknown, but it might be primarily due to genetics. 

Some researchers have found that people with alopecia areata have personal or family history of other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, etc.

Symptoms of alopecia areata

Here are a few symptoms that one might observe in the case of alopecia areata.

  • Patchy hair loss about coin-sized spots
  • Any hair loss in eyebrows, beard, body hair.
  • Itchiness or inflammation in the area before hair loss
  • Some symptoms are shown in nails like white spots or lines, rough nails, nails becoming thin, dents appearing on nails, etc.


Diagnosis is mainly by the extent of hair loss. Some doctors might even perform scalp biopsies to confirm alopecia. Blood tests are also done to verify auto-immune disorders.

Types of alopecia

Here are some types of hair loss (alopecia):

Alopecia areata (patchy hair loss)

It is characterized by coin-sized patches of hair loss on the scalp or body.

Alopecia totalis

Alopecia totalis is a condition where hair loss occurs over the entire scalp.

Diffuse alopecia areata

It resembles male pattern baldness. It does not occur in spots or patches but happens all over the scalp. Patients see sudden thinning of hair all over the body.

Alopecia Universalis

It is a condition where patients lose all their facial hair, including eyebrows, eyelashes, beards, and lose other body hair such as pubic hair, chest hair, and back hair, and hair loss on the scalp.

Treatment for patchy hair loss

There is no definite cure for alopecia areata, but few treatments can reverse the effect of alopecia areata and aid in improving hair growth faster.  These treatments also prevent hair loss. This condition is difficult to predict and might need many trials and errors until you improve your situation.

Here are a few available treatments.

Medical treatment

Oral treatment

Immunosuppressants are sometimes used to block our immune system’s response, but they are not a long-term solution as they might increase side effects like liver damage, kidney damage, high blood pressure, etc. This option requires a doctor’s consultation.

Topical solution

Some of the topical solutions you can rub into your scalp will induce hair growth over the counter, and some are available with a prescription. Some of the options under topical against are

Minoxidil application once or twice a day to scallop, beard, sometimes even eyebrows. It takes a few months to show significant results, so patience is necessary. It is mostly safe to use.

Anthralin, a topical drug, irritates the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Corticosteroid creams are also used to decrease inflammation in hair follicles.

Immunotherapy can also be applied to stimulate an allergic rash which then stimulates hair growth.


Some steroids can be injected to treat mild and patchy alopecia to improve hair growth in the patchy spots. These are injected in the required area with patches with tiny needles.

Light therapy

Also known as photochemotherapy, light therapy uses radiation treatment in combination with oral medications and UV light.

Natural treatment

Natural remedies or treatments can opt as an alternative to medical treatments for this condition. Some of them include

  • Acupuncture
  • Microneedling
  • Vitamin supplements like zinc and biotin
  • Scalp massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Essential oils like neem oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, etc
  • An anti-inflammatory diet which limits diet to meat and vegetable to avoid inflammatory response in your body
  • Herbal supplements like green tea, saw palmetto, etc.
  • Home remedies like onion juice, aloe vera drinks, etc

Take Away 

Patchy hair loss is called alopecia areata, which might extend to facial hair and body hair along with the scalp. The autoimmune disorder has no known cause, and many researchers find the reason to be genetics. Although there is no cure and prevention known, there are few solutions like minoxidil, light therapy, and so on to treat the condition. This article will guide you through patchy hair loss, causes, treatments, and types of hair loss.

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