Alopecia Areata Treatments – A Guide
Whilst there is no known permanent cure for Alopecia Areata at the present time, there are a number of treatment options which have been shown to be effective in treating the patchy hair loss caused by this autoimmune condition.
Despite the smooth ‘bald’ appearance of the scalp where patches of hair have shed, the hair follicles of people with alopecia do remain alive. They lie dormant, waiting for the signal to start regrowing hair as normal, which means that the hair may regrow naturally, even after a number of years, although it cannot be predicted when and if this will happen.
Below is a guide to the various hair loss treatments for alopecia which may help to spur dormant follicles into action, speeding up the regrowth process. You can also find a number of Success Story examples at the bottom of this page which show Belgravia patients with significant regrowth results following treatment for alopecia areata. You can find a more extensive selection in our Alopecia Areata Treament Success Stories gallery.
Treatments for Alopecia Areata
Minoxidil is one of just two medically-proven hair loss treatments licensed by the MHRA and approved by its American counterpart, the FDA, for the treatment of genetic hair loss, however, it is also known to produce encouraging results for alopecia areata patients as can be seen in Belgravia’s Alopecia Hair Loss Success Stories.
It is a topical formula shown to stimulate hair growth in many hair loss patients when applied directly to the scalp, usually on a twice-daily basis. Results should start to become visible after two-to-three months of using minoxidil as directed.
There are various forms of minoxidil available, most commonly these are liquids, which some people may find too runny and difficult to control when applying to the affected area, and foams, which may be less effective as it is more difficult to apply the foam directly to the scalp without it being absorbed by the hair. Cream formulas are an effective way to ensure that the product can be applied directly to the affected areas, particularly useful for alopecia areata.
Many Belgravia clients who come to see us with Alopecia Areata are amazed at their results. As their patchy hair loss begins to lessen and they see new regrowth, patients often remark on how our hair loss treatments give them not only their hair, but also their confidence back. We understand that hair loss from alopecia can be traumatic for people to deal with, especially as it can come on suddenly.
Mr. H (pictured above, right) said of his Belgravia experience:
“I have my confidence back and the spring in my step. I would recommend it to anyone suffering from areata.”
Whilst Miss F (pictured right), had this to say following her alopecia diagnosis:
“I was so distressed by this as so much hair was falling out in handfuls and more patches were developing on my scalp. The Belgravia Centre gave me so much information on what was happening to me and I then started using the minoxidil… I would recommend this to anyone that has alopecia, it really does work… I didn’t feel like I was left on my own to deal with this.”
Other Notable Treatments for Alopecia
Steroids can be used to in a number of ways to help treat alopecia areata. From topical steroid creams or lotions, to tablets and – most successfully – as steroid injections.
Steroid injections can prevent the immune system from attacking hair follicles in alopecia sufferers . This, in turn, can lead to hair regrowth. The treatment involves a steroid solution being injected directly into the scalp a number of times, and this may need to be repeated every few months. Whilst this treatment option is best suited to those with smaller patches of hair loss, it is still worth considering the long-term side effects of steroid injections which, ironically, can include premature balding. Steroid injections can also be extremely uncomfortable and painful.
Topical steroid creams and oral steroid tablets are also popular treatments for alopecia. However, whilst some patients may experience regrowth, the long-term outlook is unclear and there are a number of side-effects which can become more prevalent in those who use these types of topical steroids or steroid tablets over a longer period of time.
Topical Immunotherapy for severe alopecia involves a course of treatment designed to heal the condition by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response.
Patients apply diphencyprone (DPCP) topically to their bald skin in the affected areas. This chemical solution should be applied once per week using a swab. The dosage is increased each time to build up the strength of the solution used. Whilst some patients have found that their alopecia has responded to immunotherapy, with regrowth visible from around 3 months of treatment, most find that they need to continue treatment to maintain hair growth.
DPCP is known to cause moderate to severe allergic reactions although building the dosage up over a period of time can help to minimise these risks. It can, however, in some rare instances lead to the patchy skin-discolouring condition, Vitiligo.
Potential Alopecia Treatments in the Pipeline
Jakafi / Ruxolitinib
Ruxolitinib, brand name: Jakafi, is undergoing clinical trials following its successful use in treating 3 patients with hair loss from alopecia areata.
This oral pill was administered twice-daily to three male patients who were all significantly affected by alopecia, each of whom managed to fully regrow their hair in a period of up to five months.
Following this small-scale research at Columbia University in the States, larger studies are now taking place to establish whether ruxolitinib could indeed be an effective treatment for alopecia areata.
Xeljanz / Tofacitinib Citrate
The rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib citrate, which also goes by the brand name Xeljanz, is currently being trialled as an alopecia areata treatment.
This follows a successful study into its use to cure the more severe form of Alopecia Universalis in a male patient treated at Yale University’s medical centre where the 25 year old male patient managed to regrow a full head of hair in around 11 months. Whilst the results of the initial trial were encouraging in terms of treating alopecia-related hair loss, there are a number of serious side-effects connected to Xeljanz which should not be overlooked.
Alternative Alopecia Treatments
Whilst there are various other products and therapies touted as alopecia ‘cures’, in reality these tend to be far less effective than the key treatments of minoxidil, steroids or topical immunotherapy.
Alternative treatments can include medicinal creams containing dithranol, which is generally used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis. Applying this cream directly to the affected areas runs the risk of patients developing skin reactions, itchiness and staining of the scalp and hair.
Alopecia areata patients who turn to UV Light Treatment undergo between two and three light therapy sessions per week, usually at a hospital. This type of treatment has a low response rate for alopecia areata patients although those who do respond may see significant results after approximately 12 months.
As far as alternative therapies, such as hypnotherapy, naturopathy and acupuncture, are concerned, these practices can be therapeutic and reducing stress may encourage some natural regrowth. However there is currently no scientific proof that these types of treatments are effective for alopecia areata, or any other forms of hair loss.