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A common form of localized hair loss that occurs in males and females, and in children as well as adults, is alopecia areata. In this condition a circular zone of complete hair loss rapidly develops, leaving the scalp smooth and shiny. The affected area may range from dime-sized to larger than a silver dollar. Multiple patches may occur.
The cause of alopecia areata is unknown, although an abnormality of the immune system is suspected. Some cases follow emotional stress and tension.
Most of the hairless patches spontaneously grow hair in two to three months. Uncommonly, the hair loss may become generalized leading to severe cosmetic disability, especially in women. Dermatologists treat localized forms of this disorder with steroid creams and/or injections. Up-to-date research and support is offered by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation: www.naaf.org