Question: My friend has alopecia areata and lost her hair when she was 3 years old. Now she is 36 and needs to know: What are the latest treatments?
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder. More than 50 percent of cases are notoriously resistant to treatment.
Most patients with this condition will invest in a good hair piece. Topical treatment now may be futile, especially if her hair follicles have been destroyed. If she has hair follicles present, topical treatment may be worth a try. A scalp biopsy can determine if topical Minoxidil — 5 percent twice daily — is an option. It works with some patients, but not everyone.
Topical immunotherapy (TI) is controversial, and involves producing an allergic contact dermatitis. TI is used frequently in Canada and Europe. If follicles are present, it has been shown to work.
Up to 40 percent of people with follicles will regrow scalp hair after 6 months of topical treatment with chemicals such as DPCP, DNCB, SADBE, or with psoriatic type treatments. An absence of follicles makes topical treatment usually futile at this point. Hair transplants can be done, but there is no assurance that they will take and remain.
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