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Study to Investigate Alopecia Areata and Eye Health Issue Links


Researchers in Egypt are to begin a two-year study to try and obtain conclusive results that show a correlation between eye disease and Alopecia Areata, the autoimmune disorder that leads to sudden, patchy hair loss.

A team at the country’s Assiut University has announced that it will test the eye health of people with Alopecia Areata in order to try and ascertain whether there is a pattern between the condition, which is classed as an autoimmune disorder, and eye problems.

Direct correlation not yet proven

Eye health issues ocularIn the past, multiple cases have been recorded where people with Alopecia Areata also have an eye condition, but a direct correlation has never been proven.

As the team states on its clinicaltrials.gov trial registration: “Alopecia Areata may have other serious comorbidities, such as cardiovascular and ocular. However, the results of studies of ocular findings in AA are controversial… there are contrasting opinions on the significance of these lenticular changes.”

Among the eye problems that have been seen are cataracts, Horner syndrome, pupil ectopia, iris atrophy and retina issues. A recent study in Ankara, Turkey, noted that people with Alopecia Areata often seem to have Dry Eye Disease.

The ultimate goal of the Egyptian study, states the team behind it, is to ascertain whether or not ocular screening should be carried out in each and every patient who reports to a clinic with Alopecia Areata.

Understanding alopecia areata

The study is unlike most trials pertaining to the disease, as these are generally interested in testing out a potential new cure. Although specialist Alopecia Areata treatment for the patchy, scalp-only form of the condition can often produce compelling regrowth, there are currently there no effective methods for treating the more extreme forms, Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis. These cause hair loss of the head and whole body, respectively.

For this very reason, trials are underway in multiple locations all over the world to see if new drugs can be developed that will help regrow lost hair in people who have even the most severe forms of autoimmune alopecia. Complications abound, however, with everything from poor test results to unpleasant side effects caused by the drugs involved standing in the way of new possibilities.

That’s not to say there haven’t been success stories: researchers in the US, for example, have been testing drugs known as JAK inhibitors and have seen very encouraging results. Some of these drugs are, however, among those associated with adverse side-effects.

Alopecia Areata is a perplexing condition; it is certainly not something the medical community can confidently say it fully understands and knows how to “switch off”, with most people generally accepting that it has several triggers that kick-start its onset in people who are susceptible to it.

One immunologist in the US perhaps hit the nail on the head last year when he said it was “just diabetes of the hair follicle.”

What is particularly interesting with regards the new study in Egypt is that it could yield fruit on two counts if certain links between Alopecia Areata and eye disease are found. Not only might it be possible that people with Alopecia Areata are able to act early to alleviate eye conditions, but it may also open up new lines of research into why the condition causes hair to fall out and why the eye is somehow involved.

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