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What Are The Best Treatments For Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system destroys the hair follicles of the affected individual, resulting in hair loss.

While this hair loss may be undetectable at first, if it occurs often, the regions of alopecia areata may merge together and become more noticeable.

Alopecia areata affects approximately 2% of the population.

Understandably, the condition can be distressing. However, there are numerous treatments available to assist in managing the symptoms of hair loss.

Continue reading to learn about the best common treatments for alopecia areata.

5 Best Treatments For Alopecia Areata

1. Topical Immunotherapy

Topical immunotherapy is the most effective treatment for extensive alopecia areata, including alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

It entails the application of chemicals straight to the scalp in order to elicit an allergic response. As a result, the immune system is stimulated, and hair growth is boosted.

Dinitrochlorobenzene, diphencyprone, and squaric acid dibutyl ester are all examples of chemicals that could be used in this manner.

Pros

  • Typically, this course of treatment is recommended and directed by a dermatologist.
  • It has the potential to be extremely successful. According to the NAAF, approximately 40% of individuals treated with topical immunotherapy will regenerate scalp hair after approximately six months.
  • If the treatment is successful, continuous use should result in hair regrowth.

Cons

  • The overall adverse effects may include a potentially severe rash. Plus, it can be unpleasant and difficult to manage. According to a 2010 study, topical immunotherapy can occasionally result in persistent dermatitis, severe cervical lymphadenopathy, widespread eczema, blistering, contact leukoderma, and urticarial response.
  • It is possible that topical immunotherapy is not readily available in your area.
  • This method of treatment is not effective for everyone.

2. Topical Minoxidil

Topical minoxidil is best for mild alopecia areata. Minoxidil, most often addressed as Rogaine, is an over-the-counter topical treatment that is simple to apply. 

It enhances hair growth once the follicle is no longer attacked by the immune system and is able to produce hair. Usually, topical minoxidil solutions contain a concentration of 2 or 5%. Once or twice daily, you apply the treatment straight to the scalp or any other area requiring it.

It stimulates blood flow to hair follicles, awakens dormant follicles, and promotes hair growth.

Pros 

  • It's simple to buy and apply.
  • When used at the prescribed times, this treatment has few side effects.
  • It's reasonably priced and can be purchased as a subscription if necessary.

Cons

  • Minoxidil may not be effective on its own. However, some patients report improved benefits when used in conjunction with topical corticosteroid medications.
  • It is ineffective for severe hair loss.
  • Minoxidil can have more serious adverse effects if used in excess, including chest pain, weight gain, migraines, and an irregular heartbeat.

3. Topical Anthralin

Topical anthralin is also best for mild alopecia areata. Anthralin cream was initially used to treat psoriasis but was later shown to be useful for mild alopecia areata.

Also referred to as a "scalp sensitizer," Anthralin causes an irritating reaction that activates the immune system and promotes hair growth.

It is applied once daily straight to the scalp in places where hair growth is desired. You apply it for a specified amount of time and then wash it off.

Pros

  • Hair regrowth is rather rapid if successful. Anthralin has been shown in studies to promote new hair growth within two to three months.
  • It's simple to use at home.
  • Typically, dermatologists prescribe and monitor anthralin.

Cons

  • Because anthralin creates irritating dermatitis on the scalp, some people may find this painful or difficult to control.
  • Anthralin is a purple "tar-like" substance that may discolor baths and bedsheets.
  • A temporary brownish darkening of lighter skin tones and hair colors may occur as a result of the treatment.

4. Corticosteroid Injections

Also best for mild alopecia areata, corticosteroid injections are frequently used to treat alopecia areata because they function by regulating the immune system and decreasing inflammation.

Alopecia areata patients experience hair loss due to their immune systems attacking the body's natural processes. Corticosteroids work by preventing these attacks.

They are a synthetic form of cortisol; a hormone produced naturally by the adrenal glands of the body. They are injected into hair loss areas to stimulate new growth.

Pros

  • Hair growth might begin as soon as four weeks.
  • It is administered by a dermatologist every four to six weeks.
  • Injections of corticosteroids continue to be a common first-line treatment for alopecia areata.

Cons

  • Corticosteroids may induce negative effects such as scalp thinning and skin atrophy.
  • This procedure is performed using a needle.
  • It does not prevent fresh hair loss.

5. Oral Corticosteroids

Oral Corticosteroids are perfect for extensive alopecia areata, including alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

While corticosteroid injections are more effective, the drug may be used topically or taken orally as a tablet.

Oral corticosteroids, like their other forms, function by inhibiting the immune system and inflammation in the body, which promotes hair regrowth.

Pros

  • They're simple to administer in tablet form under the supervision of a healthcare expert.
  • This medication has been demonstrated to be effective in individuals suffering from moderate to severe hair loss.
  • Under the guidance of a professional, oral corticosteroids may be used in conjunction with other treatments.

Cons

  • There are numerous possible adverse effects, including acne, weight gain, hypertension, stomach ulcers, and muscle weakness.
  • Long-term usage of oral corticosteroids raises the chance of developing more severe side effects, implying that treatment should be considered only as a temporary measure.
  • Once treatment is completed, hair loss may recur.

Takeaway

Alopecia areata can be a difficult condition to manage, but recent scientific advances indicate that the treatment options will continue to expand in the future.

While there is currently no FDA-approved treatment, novel approaches, such as the oral Janus kinase inhibitor, may get approval following clinical trials. The FDA has approved this inhibitor for other indications, and dermatologists have safely used it orally and topically in recent years.

It's critical to consult a physician before starting any new treatment, as many have negative effects.