In recent months, certain celebrities have opened up about their alopecia areata, catapulting this common hair loss condition into the headlines. Though alopecia doesn’t usually get international attention like this, it’s a condition that affects roughly 6.8 million people in the U.S. alone. So, what is alopecia, and what should you know about it?
What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing sudden and rapid hair loss.
There are three main types of alopecia. The most common is called alopecia areata patchy, which involves one or more coin-sized hairless patches on the scalp or other areas of the body. Alopecia totalis involves a total loss of hair on the scalp, while alopecia universalis is a complete loss of hair on the scalp, face and body.
Alopecia areata is known as a polygenic disease, which means both parents must contribute a number of specific genes in order for a child to develop it. However, it’s possible that environmental factors also contribute to alopecia. A recent study has noted that while anyone can experience hair loss, Black and Hispanic women in the U.S. have an increased risk of developing alopecia areata when compared with non-Hispanic white women.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for alopecia areata, and even though it’s not a life-threatening condition, it can still cause people a lot of emotional distress. Thankfully, there are plenty of treatments available for those experiencing hair loss due to alopecia.
Alopecia Areata Treatment Options
Undergoing hair loss can be stressful, but the good news is that there are treatment options. You’ll want to discuss with your doctor what kind of treatment is best for you, but treatments for alopecia can be either oral, injectable, or topical medications. The most frequently used medications are corticosteroids, also known as steroids. These medications are strong anti-inflammatories that work by decreasing the inflammation that’s attacking the follicles. By reducing or eliminating the inflammation, the follicles can get healthier and start to grow hair once again. Other medications that also inhibit inflammation might be used as well.
Oral medications are occasionally prescribed for patients experiencing very rapid hair loss who need a short-term solution. Oral medications are usually only given for several weeks because they are associated with severe side effects. Though these drugs may slow hair loss and induce regrowth, hair loss may continue after treatment ends.
Injectable corticosteroids are usually recommended for adults with isolated patches of hair loss. The medication is injected into the affected area to stimulate hair regrowth. It may take around six to eight weeks to notice hair regrowth, and injections are repeated every four to six weeks.
Topical treatments can also be prescribed as an alternative to injected corticosteroids.
These are usually applied to affected areas on a daily basis and are used for patients with isolated patches of hair loss.
If you’re experiencing hair loss and would like to know what your treatment options are, get in touch and we will be more than happy to assist you in finding one that’s right for you.