Background: Alopecia areata is a complex genetic disease with still many unknown aspects, and many studies have been tried to find some clues about it. Objective: We aimed to investigate the demographic and clinical characteristics of alopecia areata in Turkish patients. Methods: Demographic data, localization, attack number in addition to some parameters such as disease duration, severity, age of onset, family history and ophiasis pattern were evaluated in 539 alopecia areata patients. Results: The male to female ratio was 1.6 : 1. Occipital and beard-moustache areas were mostly affected. Positive family history was noticed in 24.1% of the patients. The age of onset was earlier in women than in men (P = 0.04). Severe forms showed more persistent (≥ 1 year) disease duration (P = 0.00). Ophiasis was more common in severe, long duration (≥ 1 year) and early onset (≤ 18 years) disease (P = 0.00 for all parameters). Childhood alopecia areata (≤ 18 years) was also associated with long duration of the disease (P = 0.016) and positive family history (P = 0.008) when compared with adult onset (> 18 years) alopecia areata. © 2008 The Authors.