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Alopecia Areata - Topic Overview

How is it treated?

Because hair usually grows back within a year, you may decide not to treat alopecia areata.

If you choose not to treat the condition and wait for your hair to grow back, you may wish to:

  • 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. But continual use of perms or dyes may result in more hair loss.

The most common treatment for patchy hair loss is many injections of corticosteroids into the scalp, about 1 cm (0.4 in.) apart, every 4 to 6 weeks.

Children and some adults may be treated with topical corticosteroids that are applied to the affected skin.

Minoxidil (Rogaine) may be used along with topical corticosteroids.

Contact immunotherapy triggers an allergic reaction on the scalp that may help hair to grow. 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. 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 light.

How will alopecia areata affect your life?

Alopecia 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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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