Thyroid problems have long been associated with certain types of hair loss, but new research from the US suggests that thyroid disorders may also be interlinked with cases of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata.
This far from uncommon condition can affect men, women and children, and leads to sudden hair fall. This can range in severity from patchy hair loss from the scalp only, to total baldness from head to toe . Now, doctors in Philadelphia have found that 21 per cent of young people with Alopecia Areata also had abnormal findings during thyroid testing.
As a result, they suggest that certain children with Alopecia Areata should undergo routine thyroid function screening.
Alopecia areata and thyroid health
According to an article submitted to JAMA Dermatology, doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia analysed 298 individuals with Alopecia Areata (all less than 21 years of age) and found that 59 had abnormal thyroid readings, with hypothyroidism the most common problem. Other thyroid issues reported included hyperthyroidism due to Grave’s disease, as well as subclinical thyroid dysfunction.
Alopecia Areata causes hair to fall out in rounded clumps, which can vary in size and number from small and barely noticeable to complete baldness. Naturally, this can be very distressing to children, who often find themselves in the firing line when it comes to unkind comments being dished out at school. Unlike people aged 16 and over, for whom Alopecia Areata treatment is not only possible but frequently yields impressive hair regrowth results, options for children are far more limited.
The findings of the American study indicate that children presenting with Alopecia Areata who have a family history of thyroid disease should undergo thyroid screening at the initial signs of shedding. Additionally, those with atopy (a heightened inclination towards allergies) and Down’s syndrome should be tested for thyroid-related issues as well when Alopecia Areata is suspected.
Interestingly, something called T regulatory cells appear to be at the heart of the issue once again. T regulatory cells, or Tregs as they are known, play a key role in managing the body’s response to potential threats, and are often mentioned in studies pertaining to Alopecia Areata. If Tregs are not functioning properly, the body has a tendency to overreact and effectively turn on itself – which is also what happens when someone has Alopecia Areata or its more extreme forms, Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis.
Dealing with autoimmune hair loss
Autoimmune hair loss has a number of suspected triggers, including physical trauma (as might be experienced during a car accident), shock and sudden extreme stress, as well as long-term psychological stress. Though new discoveries are made concerning this difficult disorder every year, it is equally true to say that the underlying biological mechanism that causes Alopecia Areata has not been conclusively identified.
At Belgravia, suitable over-16’s with the patchy, scalp-only version of Alopecia Areata are offered a tailored treatment course based upon their precise individual requirements. A consultation can help to identify the possible trigger event and the client’s medical and lifestyle requirements so that a bespoke programme can be tailored accordingly.
Treatment for alopecia areata involves recommended formulations of high-strength minoxidil which is applied directly to the parts of the scalp where hair loss is evident; minoxidil helps to encourage regrowth by opening the potassium channels. Alongside this, clients are offered appropriate hair growth boosters, which are used alongside the minoxidil to help optimise chances of regrowth.
When a child who is 15 years of age or under has Alopecia Areata, or any other kind of hair loss, a GP should always be the first port of call.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.