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This appears to be alopecia areata, a condition that affects about 2% of all people at one time in their lives or another. It is considered an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, the structures from which hairs grow. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere.
In most cases, hair falls out in small, round or oval patches about the size of a quarter. or silver dollar. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. Although uncommon, the disease can progress to cause total loss of hair on the scalp (referred to as alopecia areata totalis) or complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and body (alopecia areata universalis).
While distressing for many, alopecia areata is not a life-threatening disease. It does not cause any physical pain, and people with the condition are generally healthy otherwise.
The course of the disease varies from person to person. Most likely your hair will regrow with or without treatment, but it may also fall out again at a later date. No one can predict when it might regrow or fall out. Some people lose just a few patches of hair, then the hair regrows, and the condition never recurs. Other people continue to lose and regrow hair for many years.
There are several treatment options that a dermatologist can discuss with you, but none are foolproof. If medications and creams are ineffective, steroid injections into the scalp underlying the affected area may help to reduce inflammation and stimulate hair growth.
This condition frequently runs in families. He may have been treated with a steroid ointment (e.g. lidex, triamcinolone, desonide). These ointments also suppress inflammation and often help the hair follicles to recover.
It is a presciption medicine that is rubbed in by hand twice daily. If one strength doesn't work, a more potent version can be tried. If the creams don't work then injections may be tried.
I would ask your doctor about Lidex (fluocinonide). This is a moderate potency steroid (anti-inflammatory). In my experience the ointment works better than the cream, but is greasier. Either should help, but you may not see improvement for several weeks or months due to the slow growth of hair.
Try it on the affected area only. If your hair is falling out all over, there may not be much that you can do...though a dermatologist will have some suggestions for things to try. Also be sure to get basic blood tests, including your thyroid levles and CRP level (a non-specific marker of inflammatory conditions).
Try to avoid sleeping on your back. This adds pressure to the affected area and traction on the remaining hair follicles. If necessary, tie a tennis ball into the back of your pajama top to avoid rolling onto your back at night.