As the lion’s share of the international medical community looks to cancer drugs, adipose body fat and even modified blood in their quest to find new treatments for the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, which leads to sudden, patchy hair loss, could it be that something much simpler is actually rather effective?
According to doctors in South Korea, freezing the scalp could be the answer. A team from the Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine have been scouring the medical archives from the past 22 years to find documented cases of “superficial cryotherapy” for Alopecia Areata. In short, this means rapidly reducing the temperature of a specific part of the body; in the case of Alopecia Areata, it means a severe chilling of the affected part of the scalp to an extremely low temperature, similar to how cold caps operate.
Cryotherapy is definitely not one of the more common treatments for Alopecia Areata; Belgravia clients, for example, are typically treated using a personalised course featuring recommended formulations of high strength minoxidil from the range available at our in-clinic pharmacies, which has shown itself to be extremely effective on many occasions.
Superficial cryotherapy is certainly something that doctors do try from time to time, however, so the South Korean team wanted to establish whether or not the records suggested it was effective.
The team analysed medical data of 353 patients from 1993 to 2014 and categorised their findings into four groups: marked recovery, partial recovery, poor recovery and no recovery. When people had shown marked or partial recovery, they were deemed to be “responders”.
What is surprising is that the research team found almost 61 per cent of patients had positively responded to some degree after three months of superficial cryotherapy. Results tended to be better when patients were treated every two weeks or less and also in the early stages of the condition.
What’s particularly notable in the case of this superficial cryotherapy trial is that respondents across the board reported no severe side-effects apart from mild pain and itchy skin. This is in contrast to some of the most promising new treatments in development those centred around a suite of drugs named JAK inhibitors which have been associated with severe side-effects.
It is believed that the treatment can make a difference to people with Alopecia Areata because of the way in which it increases blood flow to the follicles. This is the same action that applying high strength minoxidil to the scalp encourages in pharmaceutical alopecia areata treatment courses.
It has also been suggested that cryotherapy has immune-modulatory effects which may be beneficial in Alopecia Areata cases.
Summing up, the doctors state that “superficial cryotherapy is an effective and safe therapeutic modality for Alopecia Areata.” It’s an interesting study and one which is now surely crying out for an in-depth clinical trial, as well as more investigation into existing and new application techniques.
What might be holding larger pharmaceutical companies back from investing in this area is that an effective cryotherapy-based treatment for Alopecia Areata may be difficult to protect, given that it centres around such a simple basic principle. There are already many different cryotherapy devices available as the therapy is used for everything from wart removal to weight loss.
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