Alopecia areata is a skin disease that causes hair to fall out in coin-shaped patches. It develops when the immunity system attacks the hair follicles due to an abnormality that is not yet known. One may encounter sudden hair loss from the scalp or other body parts like face and legs. This skin condition doesn’t result in alopecia universalis (complete loss of hair from the whole body), but it can deter hair from regrowth. If and when the hair grows back, there are chances that the hair might fall out again. The case differs from individual to individual.
Currently, there’s no cure for alopecia areata. However, technological advances have helped draft techniques and treatment for alopecia areata. Here are some excellent treatments that one can undergo.
- Intralesional Corticosteroid Injections
It is a conventional treatment for alopecia areata wherein corticosteroids are injected into the bald patches and repeated every 4 – 6 weeks according to the condition examined by the dermatologist. Some patients might experience slight soreness from the needle prick and tingling sensation from the medication. However, the pain and discomfort subside after a few hours.
- Topical Minoxidil
In this treatment, a minoxidil solution is applied topically once or twice on the scalp to stimulate the hair follicles to regrow. The therapy had shown results for many people when it was mixed with topical corticosteroid medicines and applied on the affected area. Though it is not as effective for people suffering from extensive loss of hair.
- Anthralin Ointment or Cream
Anthralin is also used to treat psoriasis, which is also a skin disease. In the treatment of alopecia areata, the ointment is applied on the bald patches once in a day and washed off after a time span of 30 to 60 minutes. One can see new hair growth within 8 to 12 weeks. The ointment might cause certain brown discolouration on the skin, but it is only temporary and fades after some time.
- Topical Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids lessen the inflammation around the hair follicle caused due to alopecia areata. These topical steroids come in different forms such as lotions, creams, ointments or solutions. Some studies prove that using a topical solution can reduce hair loss and improve hair growth by approximately 25%. Topical corticosteroids act as good supplements when treating children who have with alopecia areata. The only drawback is that it has a different effect on different people. It might work for some people, but for some, it may be useless. It all depends on the ability of the scalp to absorb the medication.
- Topical Immunotherapy
This therapy is used to treat large-scale alopecia areata. It involves the application of chemicals such as dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB), squaric acid dibutyl ester (SADBE) or diphencyprone (DPCP) to the scalp. It causes an allergic reaction similar to poison ivy or oak, ultimately altering the immune response. Many patients have seen positive results after treatment with topical immunotherapy which regrows hair after 6 – 8 months of treatment. This treatment needs to be administered by an experienced dermatologist.
Immunomodulators are drugs such as ruxolitinib and tofacitinib that are helpful in treating alopecia areata. These drugs were initially crafted for rheumatoid arthritis and blood disorders and are not yet approved by FDA for treating alopecia areata. It hasn’t shown many benefits to some patients but proven to be effective to others. Since it is a new form of treatment, the benefits and side effects are still being evaluated.
The effect of each treatment depends on an individual and how well they respond to it. Some patients don’t even require any treatment as their abnormality corrects itself naturally and for some, even the treatments don’t work. One needs to get examined and talk to a dermatologist to source out the best treatment for themselves.