Alopecia areata is the medical terminology for hair loss, and there are several effective forms of treatment for alopecia areata. It is normally reversible but patients may experience symptoms such as hair loss when new hair begins to grow. There are two general types of hair loss, namely androgenetic and Telogen effluvium. In this article, we’ll discuss the common forms of treatments for alopecia areata.
Androgenetic alopecia is usually characterized by generalized loss on the frontal, scalp, and neck areas. The cause is excess androgens in the body, which results in increased production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the scalp. There is an abundance of hair follicles on the scalp which absorb DHT. This causes inflammation, resulting in thinning and gradual loss of hairs. At this stage, it is recommended that patients discontinue application of topical medications such as finasteride, minoxidil, and saw palmetto extract. Oral contraceptives are also contraindicated.
Telogen effluvium is a form of alopecia areata with respect to timing. Hair loss occurs at the onset of a hormonal disturbance, specifically during the time when the scalp is at its most responsive to hormone changes after a bath or shower. This kind of hair loss is not linked to genetic or environmental factors; therefore, it can be caused by stress or an illness. It is common in women after their menstrual cycle; therefore, post-menopausal women who take tamoxifen are at a high risk of developing atopic eczema.
Alopecia universalis is a type of alopecia areata with respect to genetic predisposition. Like telogen effluvium, it occurs at the onset of a favorable hormone reaction, specifically after a bath or shower. Alopecia universalis may occur in either scalp or eyebrows, but is more commonly seen in the scalp. There is no clear explanation for the cause of this disorder. It is thought to be due to a genetic predisposition to hair loss. Therefore, if a family history of hair loss exists, the chance of developing alopecia universalis increases.
Both areata and alopecia universalis have high survival rates with patients usually remaining healthy after the first few years of treatment. Patients often report the development of new skin conditions during treatment. This often results in redness, itchiness, and flaking, and can resolve as the body adjusts to the effects of the steroids and corticosteroids. New hair growth takes place after the initial steroids and corticosteroids have stopped being taken. Most patients continue to take hair loss drugs throughout their lifetime.
When the primary causes of bald patches and alopecia areata have been identified, the most common course of treatment is a combination of drugs, scalp surgery, and hair loss supplements. In the case of patients who have not responded to this initial course of treatment, additional treatment options include surgical excision of the bald patches, hair grafting, thermal radiation therapy, and chemical therapies such as minoxidil and trichogen. While the success of these treatments depends on the severity of alopecia and the frequency of occurrence of bald patches, they are generally successful in reducing the appearance of bald patches. The majority of patients also find that their new hair grows in normally and that there are no new symptoms to worry about.
For patients who have already used up all of their treatment options for alopecia areata, newly discovered triggers, called immunomodulators, have shown some promise in the treatment of alopecia areata. Immunomodulators work by blocking the production of a protein known as cytokines. When the immune system is overwhelmed by the body’s immune response to bacteria, viruses, or parasites, the hair follicles are deprived of the nutrients they need to grow and survive. Once the follicles are deprived of the nutrients they require, they begin to die off resulting in the loss of hair.
If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of alopecia areata, it is important to discuss these symptoms with your clinician. A qualified and experienced clinician will be able to determine the cause of your alopecia and recommend the best course of treatment for your individual situation. A qualified and experienced dermatologist is your best source of information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of alopecia areata. If you have alopecia areata, do not delay getting a thorough medical evaluation. A dermatologist can help you to determine whether your condition requires an urgent treatment regimen or whether your condition can be treated with natural means without the use of medications or lasers.