Alopecia Areata - Topic Overview
Because hair usually grows back
within a year, you may decide not to treat alopecia areata.
choose not to treat the condition and wait for your hair to grow back, you may
- Wear hairpieces. Hairpieces are
made from human or synthetic hair that is implanted into a nylon netting.
Hairpieces may be attached to the scalp with glue, metal clips, or tape. But hair
weaving, which involves sewing or braiding pieces of longer hair into existing
hair, is not recommended because it may cause permanent hair loss.
- Use certain hair care products and styling techniques. Hair
care products or perms may make hair appear thicker. Dyes may be used to color
the scalp. However, continual use of perms or dyes may result in more hair
The most common treatment for patchy hair loss is many
corticosteroids into the scalp, about
1 cm (0.4 in.) apart, every 4
to 6 weeks. Limited research reports that hair grows back at the site of
injection in some people.2
some adults may be treated with topical corticosteroids that are applied to the
affected skin. Minoxidil (Rogaine) may be used along with topical
Contact immunotherapy may be the most effective
treatment for severe alopecia areata.3 A medicine is
"painted" on the scalp once a week. This irritates the skin and makes it red
and scaly. Hair growth may appear within 3 months of beginning treatment.
Studies have shown that half or more of those with severe alopecia areata had a
good response, but how much hair grew back varied widely.2, 4 Side
effects of contact immunotherapy include a severe rash (contact dermatitis) and swollen
lymph nodes, especially in the neck.
Psoralen with ultraviolet A light (PUVA) therapy may
also be used to treat alopecia areata. PUVA usually is reserved for people who
have large areas of skin affected by the disorder or who cannot use other
treatments. For PUVA, a medicine, called a psoralen, is used to make the skin
more sensitive to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Then the skin is exposed to UVA
How will alopecia areata affect my life?
areata does not affect you as another condition might: it is not painful, it
does not make you feel sick, and it does not result in serious health problems.
You cannot spread it to other people, and it should not interfere with school,
work, or recreation.
But if hair loss is making you feel
unattractive, it is important to talk to someone about it. A counselor can
help, as can talking to other people with the same condition.