Alopecia Areata - Topic Overview
How is alopecia areata diagnosed?
is diagnosed through a medical history and physical examination. Your doctor
will ask you questions about your hair loss, look at the pattern of your hair
loss, and examine your scalp. And he or she may tug gently on a few hairs or
pull some out.
If the reason for your hair loss is not clear, your
doctor may do tests to check for a disease that could be causing your hair
loss. Tests include:
- Hair analysis. Your doctor will take a
sample of your hair and examine it under a microscope. A scalp sample is also
- Blood tests, including testing for a specific
condition, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism or
How is it treated?
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. But 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.
some adults may be treated with topical corticosteroids that are applied to the
Minoxidil (Rogaine) may be used along with topical
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.
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