Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition in which the skin’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles at the roots, causing the hairs to fall out intact, leaving smooth, bare patches on the scalp or elsewhere on the body . This disease most often occurs in otherwise healthy people, One fifth of patients have a strong family history. In some patients stress, pregnancy, major trauma or illness are the precipitating factors of Alopecia Areata. With limited hair loss of less than 40%, hair usually regrows in a few months The condition is cyclical and unpredictable, and the hair can grow back or fall out again at any time. Alopecia is not contagious.
Alopecia areata can cause different types of hair loss. Each of these types has a different name:
- Alopecia areata (hair loss in patches).
- Alopecia totalis (lose all hair on the scalp) - 5% of people
- Alopecia universalis (lose all hair on the body).
There is no cure for alopecia areata. Hair often re-grows on its own. Treatment can help the hair re-grow more quickly. A dermatologist may prescribe one or more of the following to help the hair re-grow more quickly:
Corticosteroids: This medicine suppresses the immune system. It can be given as injections, into the places with hair loss. . The corticosteroid fluid is slowly absorbed from the injection site to the local tissue for the maximum effect. The corticosteroid suppresses the T-cell immune attack on the hair follicles. For adults, these injections are often the first line of treatment. The frequency of these injections is every 3 to 6 weeks. Hair growth begins about 4 weeks
Another treatment is topical corticosteroids (applied to the skin) . It may be a cream, lotion, or ointment. The patient applies the medicine to the bare spots. This is often the best treatment for children that involve three months of treatments before any hair regrowth can start and often requires maintenance therapy to limit the effects of alopecia.
Less often, patients are put on Systemic steroids as these corticosteroid pills can have some side effects, these may be a treatment choice for patients with many bald spots.
Minoxidil: A hair re-growth medicine, minoxidil 5%, may help some patients re-grow their hair. Both children and adults can use it. Patients apply it twice a day to the scalp, brows, or beard. New hair may start to grow in about 3 months. Patients most often use this medicine with another treatment. Side effects can include scalp irritation and occasionally unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the forehead or face.
Diphencyprone (DPCP): This medicine is applied to the bald skin. It causes a small allergic reaction. When the reaction occurs, a patient has redness, swelling, and itching. This allergic reaction tricks the immune system, causing it to send white blood cells to the surface of the scalp. This fights the inflammation. It also prevents the hair follicles from going to sleep, and stimulates the scalp hair to regrow. Immunotherapy treatments can take 3 months for the hair to start re-growing.
Patients often get more than one treatment at a time. A mix of two or more treatments often boosts better results.