Alopecia areata: Signs and symptoms

If you have alopecia areata, you may have one or more of the following:

  • Patchy hair loss: The problem often begins with 1 or more coin-sized, round, smooth, bare patches where hair once was. You may first notice the problem when you see clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower.  

    Hair loss occurs mostly on the scalp. But it can involve eyebrows, eyelashes, beards — any hair-bearing site. Patches vary in size.
                bald spot Alopecia areata: It often begins with a round, smooth, bald patch.
  • “Exclamation mark” hairs: Often, a few short hairs occur in or at the edges of the bare spots. These hairs get narrower at the bottom, like an exclamation mark.

  • Widespread hair loss: With time, some patients go bald. Some lose all their body hair, too. This is not common. Also uncommon is a band of hair loss at the back of the scalp.
                hair loss Alopecia areata: With time, there may be lots of hair loss.
  • Nail problems: Alopecia areata also can affect your fingernails and toenails. Nails can have tiny pinpoint dents (pitting). They also can have white spots or lines, be rough, lose their shine, or become thin and split. Rarely nails change shape or fall off.

    Sometimes nail changes are the first sign of alopecia areata.
                nail changes Alopecia areata: Nails can have dents, white spots, and roughtness.

Learn more about alopecia areata:

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

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