Alopecia areata is a condition characterized by loss of hair usually in a localized patch or multiple patches. The scalp itself is usually perfectly normal. In alopecia areata, the body generates an immune attack on the hair follicles that stops the hair from growing just below the surface of the skin. Occasionally, the scalp itches slightly, but usually there are no associated symptoms.
The vast majority of children with alopecia areata are otherwise well. Occasionally, the hair loss will be great enough that all scalp hair (alopecia totalis) or even all body hair (alopecia universalis) will be lost.
The course of alopecia areata (that is, the frequency of hair loss, extent and hair regrowth) is unpredictable. However, most children with localized loss eventually experience hair regrowth. Recurrences of the hair loss are not uncommon.
Your child's doctor can encourage hair regrowth by prescribing a topical medicine, although the response to these treatments is also unpredictable. If the alopecia areata is excessive and/or results in a significant cosmetic problem, purchase of a wig may be advised.