What is the risk of alopecia areata in my children?

If a parent has alopecia areata, what is risk of alopecia areata in their children?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. About 2 % of the population will develop alopecia areata at some point in the lives. 

About 70 % of the condition can be explained by genetics or 'genes' that get passed down from generation to generation. But 30 % of the condition is environmental. This means that it's possible for alopecia areata to develop in one identical twin but not in the other. The condition is not entirely explained by genetics. 

Passing the condition along to children

If one parent has alopecia areata, there is a slight increased risk that a child will develop the condition. The exact risk depends on a number of factors:

  1. At what age did the parent develop alopecia?
  2. Does the parent have alopecia areata, totalis or universalis
  3. Are there other autoimmune diseases in the family ? (vitiligo, autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, atopic dermatitis)
  4. How many other family members have alopecia areata? 

The risk for ANY child to develop alopecia areata is 2%. When one more more of the above factors are present the risks goes up above 2 %. IN general, only about 20 % of patients with alopecia areata have a family history of the condition.

No genetic tests at present

At present there is no genetic test whatsoever to predict the risk of a child developing alopecia areata if a parent has alopecia areata. I generally tell parents that there is a much much better chance their child will NOT develop alopecia areata

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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