History Of Alopecia Areata

Fox's Disease

The history of alopecia areata is quite interesting. Originally, Hippocrates called alopecia, "fox’s disease”. We also know for a fact that what we now call alopecia areata was first described by Cornelius Celsus in 30 AD.

Cornelius Celsus actually described two types of alopecia, alopecia totalis, the type that leaves the sufferer completely devoid of all body hair, and alopecia Ophiasis, which gives a "snake” like pattern of balding that somewhat looks like a reverse Mohawk. Celsus actually thought that alopecia Ophiasis only occurred in children. How wrong he was!

Area Celsi To Alopecia Areata

For a long time, in honor of Celsus, alopecia was called "area celsi”, until Sauvages, Nosologica Medica, published in 1760, in Lyons, France, when he renamed it once and for all, alopecia areata. However, even then, there was no real idea as to what caused the disease.

Moving forward in the history of alopecia areata, in the eighteen hundreds debate began over several favored hypotheses. The first, based on a parasitic infection, was based on the way the balding lesions grew. Since they expanded slowly like a localized infection, which did rather point to a good answer. But there was no luck in isolating the organism responsible for the infection, nor was there any luck in infecting anyone (or anything) else with the "infection”. The idea was the use the new technology that had been developed with small pox, to cure "baldness”.

The second hypothesis was that alopecia a nervous disorder. Using clinical observation of frequent trauma, physical and emotional stress that can be associated with alopecia areata, they were proving that you could cause hair loss by cutting the nerve in the neck of a cat! Other favored hypotheses were that alopecia areata is a dental disease, eye strain, due to diet, thyroid or endocrine system failure. Another popular suggestion was that its cause was sexually transmitted disease.

The Alopecia Areata Foundation

Since then, thanks to the Alopecia Areata Foundation and other advocacy networks, we have discovered that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder. The body’s white blood cells for some unknown reason, turns on the hair follicles and attacks them, causing the hair to fall out. Sometimes it’s only in that small quarter sized circle shape, sometimes it’s the whole head, sometimes it’s the whole body.

There are some signs of the disease, like thickening of the nails, which are made from the same material as hair. It can run in families. You can "go into remission” and then lose your hair again, or grow all the hair back and never have it happen again. Some people swear by meditation and diet as a way to deal with the disease, and others swear by the medications that their doctors prescribe.

Alopecia Areata History

Even with all this history, there is no set in stone answer for alopecia areata. The history of alopecia areata is colorful to say the least. It is interesting and somewhat bizarre. But it is going somewhere. The future history of alopecia areata is looking very bright as we begin to understand what it is and how our bodies work.



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