Nail Damages due to Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is highly unpredictable, autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Nearly 2% of the U.S. population will develop alopecia areata at some point in their lifetime. Entire patches of hair fall out as a result of the autoimmune system attacking the body’s hair follicles. Alopecia areata affects all ages and both genders.
Since it is autoimmune desease, other deseases like asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus may affect a person who suffers from alopecia areata. There are three types of alopecia :
1. Alopecia areata - when hair falls out of the scalp and leaves visible patches of baldness.
2. Alopecia areata totalis - total loss of hair on the scalp.
3. Alopecia areata universalis - complete loss of hair on the scalp and body, including lashes, brows, beards, and, in some cases, even the thin, protective coat of hair over the whole body.
People affected with alopecia areata, keep alive hair follicles and can experience hair re-growth . In some instances, hair growth may occur without treatment, but sometimes even with treatment it occurs that the hair doesn’t grow back.
People who suffer from alopecia may not have other health problems, but there is a major psychological effect, that may be eased by consultation with the therapist. Since there are lots of emotions to deal with, a professional will be able to offer ways to do it. Also, women have ways of concealing hair loss, by using wigs, scarves and false eyelashes in order to maintain healthy look.
Sometimes, alopecia areata affects fingernails and toenails. It can be present on only one or two nails or it can affect all of them. It is not an alarming situation, since it is not contagious. However, it is unpredictable – the condition of the nail could change. The beauty treatments for nail improvements are not recommendable, since the doctor wouldn’t be able to see the changes. Besides, the persons affected with alopecia areata already have weakened immune system, so every product has to be checked first for the ingredients because of the reaction it may cause.
Some of the nail changes caused by Alopecia are:
- Nail pitting – It is the most commonly seen abnormality and represents irregular keratinization in the nail matrix. When an inflammatory condition affects the nail matrix keratin is formed abnormally. This abnormal keratin detaches itself from the nail plate leaving behind punctuated depressions or pits in the nail plate.
- Koilonychia is represented by transverse and longitudinal concavity of the nail, resulting in a "spoon-shaped" nail. The spoon-shaped, concave nails of koilonychia commonly occur as a result of thinning and softening of the nail plate.
- Onychomadesis is the proximal separation of the nail plate from the nail bed, which typically results in shedding of the nail. The precipitating event causes complete cessation of nail matrix activity.
Fragments of nail keratin can be removed and observed by using both light and electron microscopic techniques. Documentation of such research shows that most of the nail changes seen in alopecia have been found to be related to changes within the proximal matrix.