How is alopecia areata treated?
In approximately 50% of patients, hair will regrow within a year without any treatment. The longer the period of time of hair loss, the less likelihood that the hair will regrow. A variety of treatments can be tried. Steroid injections, creams, and shampoos (such as clobetasol or fluocinonide) for the scalp have been used for many years. Other medications include minoxidil, irritants (anthralin or topical coal tar), and topical immunotherapy (cyclosporine), each of which are sometimes used in different combinations.
A study reported in the journal Archives of Dermatology (vol. 134, 1998;1349-52) showed effectiveness of aromatherapy essential oils (cedarwood, lavender, thyme, and rosemary oils) in some patients. As with many chronic disorders for which there is no single treatment, a variety of remedies are promoted which in fact have no benefit. There is no known effective method of prevention, although the elimination of emotional stress is felt to be helpful. No drugs or hair-care products have been associated with the onset of alopecia areata. Much research remains to be completed on this complex condition.
- Alopecia areata is a hair-loss condition which usually affects the scalp.
- Alopecia areata typically causes one or more patches of hair loss.
- Alopecia areata tends to affect younger individuals, both male and female.
- An autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, is believed to cause alopecia areata.
- For most patients, the condition resolves without treatment within a year, but hair loss is sometimes permanent.
- A number of treatments are known to aid in hair regrowth. Multiple treatments may be necessary, and none consistently works for all patients.
- Many treatments are promoted which have not proven to be of benefit.