What is it?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that affects 2% of the world’s population
Autoimmune means that the body’s own immune system is attacking the hair follicles and causing the the hair to fall out.
The exact cause is unknown. Sometimes it can be associated with viral infections, trauma, hormonal change or emotional stress.
What are the Symptoms?
The majority of people will develop circular areas of hair loss on the scalp only
Most people have no symptoms but occasionally people can have nail involvement as well
Do I need to do any tests as part of the diagnosis?
In most cases the answer is NO as this tends to be a clinical diagnosis
Occasionally your doctor will order blood tests to determine if you have any easily correctable causes of alopecia areata
It is rare to have to do a scalp biopsy for diagnosing this condition
What are the treatment options available?
This condition is self correcting over time thus no treatment is typically needed except reassurance that things will take time to recover. If treatment is warranted there are several options:
1. Topical treatments
• Minoxidil 5% foam (Rogaine)
• Topical corticosteroids
• Anthralin ointment
• Diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP)
• Bimatoprost solution (Latisse) – more for eyelashes and eyebrows
2. Intralesional corticosteroid injections – Kenalog injections every 4-12 weeks.
3. Oral treatments – typically for severe cases only
• Prednisone (short courses)
• JAK inhibitors (Tofacitinib/Ruxolitinib) – mostly experimental currently and costly.