Everyone sees some hairs stuck in their shower drain or in their hairbrush. It's normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day, but if you're losing more than that, you may have a medical condition like alopecia areata. People with alopecia areata lose clumps of hair and develop round bald patches on their scalps. Here are four things you need to know about this embarrassing condition.

What causes it?

The exact cause of alopecia areata isn't known yet, but the main theory right now is that an autoimmune response is involved. Researchers think that the immune system attacks the hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out. Alopecia areata is associated with many autoimmune conditions like vitiligo, diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, which supports the theory that there is an immune system link.

Can it be treated?

Dermatologists can't cure alopecia areata, but fortunately, the hair often comes back by itself. However, there are many treatments available that may help your hair grow back more quickly. The first treatment that dermatologists recommend is usually corticosteroid injections. The dermatologist will inject corticosteroids into your bald spot every three to six weeks, and after about four weeks, your hair may start to grow back. If you don't like needles, you may be able to get corticosteroid creams instead, but corticosteroid creams aren't as effective as injections.

Hair growth medicines like minoxidil can also be used. You will need to apply the medicine to your bald spot twice a day until your hair grows back. This can take about three months. When your hair grows back, it may be white at first, but your hair's usual color will return.

Will the condition recur?

For some people, alopecia areata is a one-time event, but for others, it will recur. Your dermatologist can't predict if your hair loss will come back in the future. If the condition recurs, you'll need to return to your dermatologist to be re-treated. 

Is it common?

Alopecia areata is a fairly rare condition. It affects between 0.1% and 0.2% of the general population of the United States, and the prevalence in the rest of the world is similar. It affects people of all races equally. Some studies have found that it affects men and women equally, while other studies have found that it's slightly more common in women. This condition can affect people of any age, but it usually occurs in the teens or twenties.

If you think you have alopecia areata, see a dermatologist, such as those at Advanced Dermatology Care, right away for treatment.