What You Need to Know About Treating Alopecia Areata

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. It can take a variety of forms, but the two most common are androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata. Both are characterized by baldness, but the pattern of loss varies.

Androgenic alopecia is male-pattern baldness that’s common in men as they grow older. With alopecia areata, the hair loss is unpredictable and the bald patches are about the size of a quarter. 

Regardless of your age, hair loss can impact your self-confidence. At Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry, Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team understand the emotional toll hair loss can have. In this blog, Dr. Mikell discusses alopecia areata and how it can be treated.

Understanding alopecia areata

While other types of hair loss generally develop as you get older, most cases of alopecia areata are diagnosed in patients under age 30. This condition is characterized by small patches of hair loss that generally appear on the scalp, but they can develop anywhere on the body.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. The disease attacks your hair follicles, making hair fall out in patches. You might lose a significant amount of hair in a short time, or you might lose hair on only one side of your head. 

The amount and location of hair loss can vary between individuals. Some people only lose small patches of hair on the scalp. Others may have large bald patches that develop when smaller areas connect with one another. In some cases, people with alopecia areata may lose all of their hair.

If you have alopecia areata, your hair can grow back, but it’s possible that it will fall out again. Treatment for alopecia areata focuses on triggering hair growth and increasing the speed at which it grows.

Treatment options for alopecia areata

Treatment for alopecia areata can vary depending on the severity of your condition. Dr. Mikell will perform a comprehensive exam and talk with you about your symptoms and goals for treatment.

Medication

Corticosteroid treatments are often prescribed for autoimmune diseases, and they can work for alopecia areata as well. Corticosteroids can be injected directly into your scalp. They can also be delivered in the form of a topical cream or oral medication. 

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter topical treatment that can prevent further hair loss. Generally used to treat male-pattern hair loss, it can also encourage hair regrowth in people with alopecia areata.

Topical immunotherapy

If you have a significant amount of hair loss or you’ve experienced significant hair loss multiple times, Dr. Mikell may recommend topical immunotherapy. This treatment is applied directly to your scalp to trigger hair regrowth.

Lifestyle changes

Taking steps to reduce stress can help with alopecia areata-related hair loss. Stress may increase the amount of hair you lose, and finding healthy ways to manage stress may reduce your hair loss. 

Many people with alopecia areata find that wearing hats, wigs, or scarves to cover patches of hair loss can help minimize embarrassment. Covering your head will also protect your bare skin from sun damage.

No matter the level of hair loss you’re living with, Dr. Mikell can help you find an alopecia areata treatment that’s right for you. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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