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Suffering From Hair Loss? It Could Be Alopecia Areata

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According to Medical News Today, an astounding 6.8 million people in America suffer from alopecia areata, which is a form of hair loss. The condition affects both men and women of varying ages, although most cases are reported to occur before the age of 30.

It is helpful to fully understand alopecia areata, should you or someone you know begin to show symptoms of it. Below is some helpful information about the condition, including symptoms and treatment options. 

Causes

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which a person's red blood cells begin to attack their hair follicle cells. This can slow the growth of the hair or stop it from growing at all. In some cases, alopecia areata is hereditary. It is estimated that one out of every five cases involves an individual who also has a family member with the condition.

Because alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder, it is often seen in patients who have been diagnosed with other autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes, thyroiditis, and atopy. It is not currently known why the body attacks itself in this manner. It has been proven, however, that stress is not a cause. 

Symptoms

Unlike other forms of hair loss, alopecia areata is fast acting and occurs in just a few short days. Because it shows up as circular patches of missing hair, it is sometimes referred to as spot baldness. Each of the spots tends to be about the size of a coin, and they are typically found on the scalp, although it is possible to find alopecia areata spots anywhere on the body where there is hair.

Individuals may also discover that their finger and toenails appear to have tiny pinholes in them or that their nails have an abnormal color or shape.

It is important to note that alopecia areata is not contagious and does not lead to any other illnesses. The bald spots are not painful and they do not itch. The condition will not interfere with school, work, or community involvement. Some people begin to feel unattractive and, as a result, decide to wear hats or purchase a wig until the patches of missing hair grow back. 

Diagnosis

Although a dermatologist may be able to diagnose a person's alopecia areata simply by examining the scalp, he or she may also wish to run a few tests. First, the doctor may tug at a few of the hairs near the bald spot and then examine them under a microscope. This is called a hair analysis. Next, the dermatologist may order some blood work to check for things like an overactive or underactive thyroid.

Treatment

Fortunately, individuals who suffer from alopecia areata do well with treatment. In fact, 90 percent are able to fully regrow their hair in just a few years. The main treatment for this condition is corticosteroids, which can be given in pill form, as a topical cream, or in a series of shots. The steroids work to stop the immune system from halting the regrowth of hair.

A few other courses of treatment that are sometimes prescribed include prescription hair regrowth medication and phototherapy or light treatments. Your doctor will know which method of treatment is best for you based on your medical history and how mild or severe your case of alopecia areata is.

If you're suffering from hair loss, Advanced Dermatology & Skin Care Specialists can determine if the cause is alopecia and then create a treatment plan. We have six offices throughout Southern California for your convenience, and our experts also offer services for everything from acne to eczema to cosmetic dermatology. Contact us today to learn more.


Is Your Constant Sweating Actually Hyperhidrosis?

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If you've ever sweated through your shirt on a cold day or find that your hands are always damp, no matter the situation, you may be wondering whether your sweating is in the normal range or whether you have an actual diagnosable disorder. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, affects two to three percent of American adults, making it one of the more common issues for the endocrine system; but you can’t find many over-the-counter treatments for this condition.


Read on to learn more about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of this common but little-known disorder. 


What Causes Hyperhidrosis?

In many cases, hyperhidrosis can be caused by an illness or injury that disrupts the endocrine system. This is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. A pituitary tumor, autoimmune disorder, or even just a concussion that impacts a specific part of the brain can cause your sweat glands to constantly produce sweat rather than just reacting to heat or stress (like most sweat glands).


Some medications can also have hyperhidrosis as a listed side effect, and if the benefits of the medication are equal to the hassles of hyperhidrosis, discontinuing this regimen could be a bad idea. But in other cases, hyperhidrosis doesn't have any observable cause. This is deemed primary hyperhidrosis. 


How Do You Know You Have Hyperhidrosis?

It's possible to be a heavy sweater but not have hyperhidrosis. If you tend to seriously sweat while exercising, during times of stress, or after stepping into a hot room, but are relatively sweat-free the rest of the time, your body may be exhibiting typical sweating behavior. 


But if you seem to constantly sweat, even while you're cold, and have noticed your sweating impact your daily life and even your ability to do things like type on a keyboard or grip a pen, you could have hyperhidrosis. Individuals suffering from hyperhidrosis don't really have an off switch for their sweating, and in situations where everyone is sweating, can produce enough sweat to soak through clothes, furniture, and shoes. 


There are two primary varieties of hyperhidrosis: axillary, which tends to affect the underarms, and palmoplantar, which affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. However, some individuals who have one of these types of hyperhidrosis also experience excessive sweating elsewhere, like the groin, back, or legs. 


How Is Hyperhidrosis Treated? 


Milder cases of hyperhidrosis can sometimes be treated with prescription-strength deodorants and antiperspirants to reduce both the amount and the odor of the sweat you produce. But if you'd like to put behind you for good the social anxiety your sweating can cause, you may want to consider one or more of the following treatments.


Botox

The same medication used to treat facial wrinkles can also successfully eliminate the excess sweating caused by hyperhidrosis. Botox is derived from the same toxin that causes the serious food poisoning botulism, and works by temporarily paralyzing the nerves it encounters. When injected into your underarms, palms, or feet, Botox can calm your sweat glands so that you only produce a typical amount of sweat.

Because Botox is naturally absorbed by the body over time, people who choose this option will either need to schedule it around special events (like job interviews, weddings, and dates) or commit to having the procedure performed several times each year.


Laser treatment

Laser treatment operates in much the same way as Botox, but it tends to have longer-lasting results. By closing off some of your overactive sweat glands with a laser, dermatologists can significantly reduce the amount of sweat you produce. 

If some of the symptoms of hyperhidrosis hit close to home, you may want to contact a dermatologist to discuss your options. Excessive sweating can be embarrassing and anxiety-inducing, so seeking treatment for this common condition sooner rather than later is best. 

Childhood Eczema: A Parent's Guide for Proper Care

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Eczema is common in young children and often requires special care to help prevent flare-ups, spreading, and itching. Some more severe cases of eczema can be uncomfortable for children, even leaving the skin raw or broken in places.

While your dermatologist should oversee treatment methods and care, you can do some simple things on a day-to-day basis to help with the severity of your child's eczema. 


Bathe With Care

Baths are an important part of your child's hygiene, but a bath can make an already painful problem worse for kids with severe eczema. Hot water dries out the skin, increasing the prevalence of red, flaky patches. To reduce the impact of a bath on your child's skin, be sure to:

  • Avoid soaps and bubbles. Many soaps remove the natural oils from the skin. You can shampoo your child's hair, but wash the rest of the body with water and washcloth. Use soap for unsanitary accidents that require disinfection.
  • Bathe less frequently. Instead of using a full bath to wash your child every day, consider saving baths for severe messes. Wash your child with a damp washcloth each day to wipe away dirt instead.
  • Use only warm water instead of hot water. Lukewarm baths will not dry out the skin as much. Your child may not be able to stay in the bath as long without the water getting cold, but their skin will be much healthier. 

With careful bathing, your child will be clean and well-groomed without making eczema worse. 


Moisturize

The battle against eczema hinges on moisture; the drier the skin, the worse the problem becomes. You can help by moisturizing the skin daily. Avoid commercial adult hand lotions as these are high in alcohol content and can make dry skin worse. They only provide temporary relief. 

Instead, look for creams that have real oils and petroleum jelly that will trap moisture in the skin. You might need to moisturize more often in dry conditions, especially in the winter time. Consider placing a humidifier in your child's room at night. 


Avoid Triggers

Many child develop eczema as a reaction to an irritant. If your child has an allergy, they can also get eczema breakouts as a result of an allergic reaction. Some foods, environmental exposures, soaps, or plants may make eczema worse. Some common triggers include:

  • Dog, horse, or cat hair. Pet dander is a common allergy, and some children may develop scaly red patches on their skin wherever a dog or cat comes in contact with them. 
  • Harsh laundry soap and cleaners. Your pediatrician may recommend laundry soap that is designed to be gentler on the skin. Some green laundry soaps and household cleaners have fewer additives, scents, and chemical fabric softeners. 
  • Milk allergies. Children who are allergic to milk protein may show signs of skin irritation from drinking or even touching milk and milk products.
  • Pollen and grass. Has your child ever gotten seasonal allergies or hives from playing outdoors in the grass? Because some types of eczema are inflammatory, break outs are common when the body is exposes to a substance that causes an inflammatory response in other areas of the body.
  • Wheat sensitivity and other food allergies. A skin flare up is a common secondary reaction to certain foods. 

The only way to know what triggers your child's eczema is to keep a close eye on the reactions and find patterns. A dermatologist may perform a skin prick test to narrow down allergies, especially for very painful forms of eczema like psoriasis.

Follow Medication Procedure

Most types of eczema can be managed with the help of topical steroid creams. These creams should be applied as directed. Try not to miss a day, and never borrow or use cream intended for someone else. The strength of a cream can vary based on the age of your child and the severity of the condition. Only use cream given to you by your doctor.


For more information, contact us at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Specialists.

What to Know About Vitiligo

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Woman having checkup — Skin Care Specialists in Southern CA


If you've recently been diagnosed with vitiligo, you may be anxious at the prospect of losing your skin's pigmentation in a way that may be difficult for makeup or strategic hairstyles to disguise. 

Fortunately, while there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to the causes and progression of this skin condition, you can take some steps to manage vitiligo before it spreads. Read on to learn more about the causes of vitiligo and what you can do to minimize the more visible side effects of this often-misunderstood skin condition.


What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition marked by the death or disability of melanocytes: the cells in the top few layers of your skin, hair, and eyes that produce pigment. Although this condition can be far more obvious when it strikes people of color, who have a much higher number of melanocytes per square inch of skin, all races and ethnicities are equally susceptible to vitiligo. 

While the impact of vitiligo is apparent, doctors still aren't sure what causes a specific person's melanocytes to sustain damage or die. Some individuals have come down with vitiligo after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, while others have had patches of skin lose their pigment after exposure to certain types of factory chemicals or even a serious, blistering sunburn.

If you have a family history of vitiligo, you may be at a higher risk of acquiring this condition. 


What Health Problems Can Stem From Vitiligo? 

In general, vitiligo doesn't pose any major health risks. However, those who have dealt with this condition will attest that the loss of self-esteem and increase in social anxiety that can come from the development of patchy skin, prematurely graying hair and even a loss of eye color can be upsetting.

Because melanocytes are your skin's primary defense against UV damage from the sun's rays, the loss of melanocytes can put you at a higher risk of sunburn and skin cancer. If the vitiligo affects your eyes, you may also find yourself dealing with vision difficulties like poor night vision or nearsightedness, and others report that vitiligo has caused or accelerated their hearing loss.

Even if you've already lost the pigment in a large area of skin, you can take some preventive steps to restore your skin, slow the effects of this condition and reduce the risk of hearing and vision loss associated with vitiligo. 


What Can You Do to Prevent the Spread of This Condition?

Many of the treatments for vitiligo focus on restoring the skin's pigment and improving overall health to boost the immune system. Many doctors believe that a strong immune system will avoid attacking its own pigment-creating epithelial cells.

One treatment that is currently being studied is red light therapy. This treatment blasts the affected areas of skin with a specific frequency of light beams, triggering the dying or dormant melanocytes to begin producing melanin again. 

Another treatment option includes topical creams that can restore the skin's elasticity and lighten overall pigmentation, helping achieve a more even (albeit lighter) skin tone. Using these creams regularly should help soften the edges between your vitiligo patches and unaffected skin. 

If you're looking for a way to reduce the visible effects of vitiligo on your skin, hair and eyes, you'll want to make an appointment with a dermatologist who has specialized experience in this unusual skin condition.

By contacting a dermatologist like Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Specialists, you'll be able to rest assured you're working with dermatologists who are well-versed in the most cutting-edge vitiligo treatments. Vitiligo doesn’t need to be a tragedy when you have good dermatologists helping you.