A systematic review of alopecia areata has been published in the Clinical, Cosmetic & Investigational Dermatology medical journal. It was carried out by Alexandra C Villasante Fricke and Mariya Miteva from the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine in America.
According to MD magazine, the review examined in over 50 years-worth of studies on the autoimmune condition, using PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases.
While the study exposed the 'unpredictability' of the condition, and noted a lack of options when it comes to treatment for alopecia areata, the main point of interest was its findings relating to quality of life (QOL) due to additional disorders.
Researchers discovered that people with alopecia areata (AA) are likely to have a 'poor health-related quality of life', with over half of those studied suffering in this way.
Those affected by AA are also at risk of many other conditions which can occur simultaneously alongside their hair loss. According to the review, these include a number of other autoimmune conditions, as well as depression, anxiety, atopy and thyroid disease.
Figures relating to the 'lifetime prevalence' of various other conditions in people with AA, provides startling reading.
According to researchers, 66-74 per cent report psychiatric disorders, 38-39 per cent report depression and 39-62 per cent report generalised anxiety disorder. This was found to affect people with the more severe forms of Alopecia Areata - namely Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis - more.
"Certainly this type of hair loss can be traumatic so a certain increase in anxiety and depression is to be expected but the review details these conditions as having a 'lifetime prevalence' which means they may in fact pre-date the individual's Alopecia Areata," says Belgravia senior trichologist, Leonora Doclis.
"Their Alopecia Areata may even have been brought on by their psychological state as stress and extreme anxiety are known triggers."
"Whilst the data makes for an interesting read and is a good starting point for further investigation, for the findings to be truly meaningful these factors need to be clarified and contextualised."
One method of assessing the 'burden' a condition has on an individual is by recording their number of 'disability-adjusted life years', known as 'DALYs'. In these terms, the DALYs for Alopecia Areata are currently either in line with or ahead of other conditions such as psoriasis.
Records taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010 put the global DALYs for AA at 1,332,800 - higher than the estimate of 1,050,660 recorded for psoriasis.
Although the path Alopecia Areata will follow is unpredictable, the review found 'spontaneous regrowth of hair occurring in 80% of patients within the first year' but noted a 'sudden relapse [was] possible at any given time'.
Despite its ability to disappear and resume normal hair growth of its own accord, as the study states, it is not uncommon for Alopecia Areata to return again later.
There are a number of on-going studies into potential future treatments for alopecia areata but it may still be a long time until any of these actually become available.
In the meantime, depending on the severity of the condition, treatment with minoxidil may prove effective, particularly in the mild-to-moderate stages. Many Belgravia clients with patchy hair loss caused by Alopecia Areata have noticed substantial regrowth from following personalised treatment plans based around this and tailored for them by hair loss specialists.
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