What is Alopecia?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes the hair to fall out, often in clumps. Hair loss may occur on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, and other areas of the body. While some patients lose hair in only a few places, others lose it in many areas. The prognosis is quite unpredictable.
Common symptoms of alopecia may include:
- Small bald areas on the scalp or other areas of the body
- Patches of hair loss may grow together into bald spots
- A significant amount of hair may be lost in a short period of time
- Hair may grow back in one spot, but fall out in another
- White hairs might grow in previous areas of hair loss
- Fingernails and toenails are brittle, red, and/or pitted
There are different types of alopecia areata. These forms include:
- Alopecia areata (patchy): One or more coin-sized patches appear.
- Persistent patchy alopecia areata: Patches appear over long periods of time
- Alopecia areata totalis: All of the hair on the head is lost
- Alopecia areata universalis: All of the hair over the entire body is lost
- Diffuse alopecia areata: There is a sudden thinning of the hair rather than a loss of hair in patches
- Ophiasis alopecia areata: Hair is lost in a band shape around the sides and back of the head
Who is a Good Candidate for Alopecia Treatment?
Individuals who believe they may have alopecia areata should see a dermatologist for assessment. During your consultation, your dermatologist will speak with you regarding your signs and symptoms and examine the areas of hair loss. The dermatologist may gently pull on the hairs at the edge of bald patches to see if they come out easily, and check individual hairs and hair follicles to see if they are abnormally shaped. An examination of your nails may also be performed. A dermatoscope might be employed during the examination. In some rare cases, a biopsy may be performed.
What to Expect During Alopecia Treatment?
While there is currently no cure for alopecia areata, there are treatment options to help the hair grow back. These treatments include:
Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory drugs are often used to treat autoimmune diseases. They are available as an injection into the scalp or other areas of the body, as a pill, or an ointment, cream, foam, gel, and solution.
Topical immunotherapy: When there is a large amount of hair loss, treatment with squaric acid dibutyl ester (SADBE) or diphencyprone (DPCP) may be a viable option. Chemicals are applied to the scalp to create an allergic reaction, which makes the hair grow back. This treatment must be repeated several times to keep the new hair growth.
JAK inhibitors: Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) is an oral therapy used for significant alopecia areata that is unable to be treated effectively with standard therapy. Laboratory monitoring and close dermatologist follow-up is required.
Alternative Topical therapies: Our office uses the full spectrum of studied agents including minoxidil, retinoids, anthralin, calcineurin inhibitors, and compounded JAK inhibitors to help our patients regrow their hair.
Following Alopecia Treatment
Following alopecia treatment, many patients notice an improvement in their hair growth. There is no downtime required following treatment, so patients can return to their everyday activities as soon as they feel comfortable. Your dermatologist will provide you with instructions on how to properly receive treatment, as well as post-treatment tips.
Schedule a Consultation
If you believe that you may have alopecia or are experiencing a great amount of hair loss, contact HMGS Dermatology today! We will be happy to help you schedule your consultation appointment with one of our dermatology team members.
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