The second most common form of hair loss
after pattern/androgenetic alopecia
, Alopecia Areata affects around two per cent of the population worldwide, and typically strikes without warning.
Though there are a number of suspected trigger factors including stress
and a genetic predisposition, there is no proof of any single reason behind the onset of the condition, which manifests itself as a sudden and patchy loss of hair.
Among the numerous teams around the world who are looking for new cures and treatments for the autoimmune condition is a group of scientists from Mexico. According to a recent research letter published in the International Journal of Dermatology, they could be onto something with phototherapy as a treatment for Alopecia Areata
, with a specific focus on using ultraviolet UVA-1 light.
Their findings seem to contradict earlier reports that phototherapy
on people with Alopecia Areata was generally understood to produce disappointing results.
Four patients treated
According to MD magazine
, Doctor Maria E. Herz-Ruelas at University Hospital, Monterrey, treated four patients across 75 sessions to ascertain whether UVA-1 phototherapy would lead to hair regrowth.
The website reports that before and after the sessions, the team took two separate 4mm punch scalp biopsies from alopecic plaques. “Following the 75 sessions,” states the report, “study results indicated that all four patients showed a prominent reduction of inflammatory infiltrate, a reduction in telogen hairs, and miniaturization of hair follicles with simultaneous increase in anagen hairs.”
Telogen is the “resting” phase that hair follicles habitually enter into as part of the hair growth cycle
, between the active growth and shedding phases. 'Telogen hairs' refers to the number of follicles lying dormant.
As this Mexican study was so small, whilst the findings are of interest, wider-ranging clinical trials would be needed to confirm the safety and suitability of the treatment before it could be considered for roll out.
The research team states that using the Severity Of Alopecia Tool (SALT), three patients received a score of S0 (meaning no hair loss), while the patient with the most severe Alopecia had a score of S1 (25 per cent hair loss). The doctors also claim that the levels of improvement were maintained after six months.
Sums up Herz-Ruelas: “We feel that UVA-1 could be included as a therapeutic alternative for patients unresponsive to previous topical or systemic pharmacological treatments.”
The topical and pharmaceutical Alopecia Areata treatment
options she is referring to include hospital-administered therapies such as steroid injections and topical immunotherapy, as well as home-use solutions such as minoxidil
. The latter has been seen to produce significant regrowth
in affected Belgravia clients with mild to moderate Alopecia Areata, despite only actually being clinically-proven for the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss. However, this is not recommended in the more severe cases of Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
Some of the more promising clinical trial results in relation to reversing these more extreme types of alopecia include Jakafi/Ruxolitinib
and Xeljanz/Tofacitinib Citrate
, though it will be some time yet before large scale trials into the long term safety and efficacy of these drugs are completed.