Patchy hair loss of unknown origin affecting the scalp, beard area or any other hair bearing part of the body.
Alopecia areata is thought to be an auto-immune disease. This means that the body makes antibodies to some unknown substance such as a virus or a medication which the body recognises as foreign. These antibodies then attack the hair follicles in areas. The hairs within the attacked area are subsequently lost. Stress appears to play an important role in its development
Does alopecia areata ever recover?
Most individuals recover spontaneously within about 6 months, even if nothing is done about it. However, in a small proportion, the hair loss is progressive and should be treated.
What treatments are available?
Application of steroid creams/ ointments/ lotions
Irritation of the scalp with Diphencyprone/ Dinitrochlorobenzene/ DNCB or dithranol
Minoxidil solution applied to the areas of hair loss
Injections of the scalp with corticosteroids (cortisone)
Oral steroids (only very extensive alopecia areata)
PUVA including Turban PUVA
308nm excimer laser
The 308nm excimer laser has been used successfully to treat 9 patients with AA. treatment was administered twice weekly for a maximum of 24 sessions.
Ref: J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;51:837-8
Tofacitinib is a new treatment for alopecia areata which is currently undegoing clinical trials. This medication is classified as a Janus Kinase inhibitor which interferes with communication signals from immune cells (lymphocytes). Ruxolitinib is another member of this new class of medication.
How long does it take to recover?
The recovery period could take several months, even with treatment
Could the hair be lost again?
Yes, alopecia areata could be a recurrent condition. In some it is seasonal and in others, it worsens with stress such as at exam time.
Where can one obtain information and support if one is suffering from this condition?