Alopecia Areata

  • A. G. Messenger
Part of the New Clinical Applications book series (NCDM, volume 9)


The first account of alopecia areata is usually ascribed to Celsus. Writing in the first century AD, he described two patterns of hair loss under the heading ‘Areae’1. The first, known as alopecia (from the Greek alopekia meaning ‘fox-mange’) ‘... spreads in no certain form. It is found in the hair of the head and in the beard.’ The second type, known as ophiasis, ‘... begins at the hinder part of the head... it creeps with two heads to the ears...’ However, it was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that alopecia areata was clearly delineated from tinea capitis, and claims that alopecia areata was caused by various microorganisms continued to appear into the early years of the present century. A variety of theories as to the cause of alopecia areata have been proposed since that time. These have included endocrine dysfunction, reflex irritation and trophoneurosis. Currently, the most popular view is that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease but, although there are grounds for believing that immunological mechanisms are involved in the disease, most of the evidence that alopecia areata is caused by autoimmunity is circumstantial. A particular problem, both in terms of understanding the aetiology and in the development of better forms of treatment, has been our poor understanding of the pathogenesis.


Hair Follicle Hair Growth Alopecia Areata Dermal Papilla Tinea Capitis 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

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  • A. G. Messenger

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