What is Alopecia Areata?

Hair Loss comes in many forms, with some more predictable and treatable than others. Alopecia Areata comes under the unpredictable types of hair loss, and the underlying cause isn’t really understood fully. It is caused by inflammation of the hair follicle when your immune system attacks your hair follicles and stops them growing hairs.

Alopecia Areata sufferers will only see these small coin sized bald spots on their scalp. Most sufferers will see multiple bald spots on their scalp. In some extreme cases Alopecia Totalis (entire scalp) or Universalis (whole body) is seen. Alopecia Areata isn’t predictable, but around 20% of Alopecia Areata sufferers do have a family history.

In time many sufferers will see regrowth in these bald patches. The hairs will first grow from the centre of the bald spot and can start as white hairs. Over time the regular pigment will normally return. Not everyone will see regrowth on these bald patches and those how do get regrowth may have recurrences later in life.

 

Can it be cured?

The short answer is that there is no cure yet. There are many treatments that can be tried, but the success rate is low. The reason for this is that the cause of the Alopecia Areata is still relatively unknown. While there are theories as to what is happening, nothing is yet proven.

The most common treatment used for Alopecia Areata is a steroid treatment. The steroids can be used as a cream, injection or an oral tablet. The cream is applied twice per day, the injections once per 4-6 weeks and the tablets each day. Each type of steroid treatment can only be used for a limited time. The risk of side effects can be quite high, especially with the oral tablets.

Ultraviolet light treatment is another treatment used with varied results. This involves applying a cream to the treatment area, that makes it particularly sensitive to light. A UV light is then shone onto the area to stimulate regrowth, two to three times a week. Recurrence of the bald spots is common if the treatment is stopped. Skin cancer can be a long-term risk from this treatment.

A new immunosuppressive drug treatment is currently being tested as a treatment for Alopecia Areata. The two drugs are known as Tofacitinib and Ruloxitinib, and are part of a new classification of drugs called JAK-inhibitors. Early information has shown promising results, but further studies are needed to fully evaluate the efficacy of these drugs.

 

What can I do?

At the moment options are unfortunately limited. Cosmetic solutions will work for some, but it is dependent on the size of the bald spots that you have. Small areas can be covered up using scalp concealers like DermMatch or Mane Hair Thickener. The larger the bald spot, the more difficult it is to cover up. Women with longer hair can wear hair extensions to cover up the thinner areas due to the bald spots.

 

Alopecia UK is a charity that provides support groups for all Alopecia Areata, Totalis and Universalis sufferers in the UK. Please visit their website for more information about up coming support groups, solutions and events – https://www.alopecia.org.uk/

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