QUESTION OF THE WEEK (MAR 1-7, 2015)

Q: Is alopecia areata considered to be inherited or genetic?

 

A:  Alopecia areata is an inherited condition.  It's sometimes hard to believe that alopecia areata is so strongly tied to genetics when only 10-20 % of patients have a family history of the condition. But dozens of high quality research studies back up the statement: alopecia areata is "genetic."

 

Alopecia Areata is a Multifactorial Genetic Trait

There is not just one gene that is involved with the developing of alopecia areata- there are many. For this reason, alopecia areata is said to be a "multifactorial" genetic trait.  If one of your first degree relatives is affected by alopecia areata, you have a ten fold increased risk of developing alopecia areata.  But the inheritance patterns are complex - even if one identical twin develops alopecia areata - the other twin has only a 55 % chance of developing alopecia areata.

In general, current research suggests that 70 % of alopecia areata can be explained by genetics and 30 % is explained by environmental factors.

We're learning more and more every day about the complex inheritance patterns of alopecia areata. We've come to learn that alopecia areata is likely much more closely related to type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis than we ever imagined. The exact genes and segment of genes that increase one's risk of developing the condition are slowly being worked out.

Right now alopecia is 'genetic' but is influenced to some extent by the environment too. That's why one twin develops aloepecia and the other twin does not. The exact environmental factors that contribute to alopecia areata are still being worked out as well.

 



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