Pathology

Alopecia Explained



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Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks its own hair follicles and suppresses hair growth, which results in hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. Alopecia areata does not cause scarring. The loss of hair is very rapid. Research suggests that alopecia areata is heredity and not contagious.

In alopecia areata, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal and hair re-growth may occur even without treatment and even after many years.

To date, there aren't any FDA approved treatments specifically for alopecia areata, but, some medical professionals try treatments off label. There are treatment options available for mild, patchy alopecia areata, less than fifty percent scalp hair loss, although there is currently no acceptable treatment that works in all cases.

Cortisone Injections: The most common treatment is an injection into the bald skin patches. Injections are normally given by a dermatologist. A tiny needle is used to give multiple injections into the skin in and around the bald patches and is repeated once a month. If new hair growth occurs, it is usually visible within one month. However this treatment does not prevent any new patches from developing. There are few side effects from local cortisone injections which include temporary depressions in the skin as a result from the injections, but usually fill in by themselves.

Topical Minoxidil: Hair regrowth may appear by applying a five percent solution twice daily. Scalp and eyebrows may regrow hair. Treatment can be stopped if the scalp hair completely regrows. A two percent solution is not effective alone but may be improved by applying a cortisone cream thirty minutes after minoxidil application. Topical minoxidil is safe, easy to use, and does not lower blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure. This treatment is not effective treating one hundred percent hair loss on the scalp.

Anthralin cream or ointment: Anthralin, a synthetic, tar-like substance used widely for psoriasis. Anthralin is applied to the bald patches once daily and washed off after usually thirty to sixty minutes. If new hair growth occurs, it is seen in two to three months after treatment began. This treatment can be irritating to the skin causing a temporary, brownish discoloration of the treated skin. By shorting the treatment times, skin irritation and staining are reduced without decreasing effectiveness.

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