28 Nov 2012

Treatment for Individuals with Alopecia Areata is Promising

Treatment for Individuals with Alopecia Areata is PromisingResearchers in Tokyo have just recently reported that patients who suffer with alopecia areata (AA), a specific type of hair loss, show a “favorable prognosis” when it comes to hair regeneration. The new study was conducted at Tokyo Medical University and was recently published online via the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in late September of this year.

Dr. Masaki Uchiyama, M.D., led the Japanese research team at Tokyo Medical University as they surveyed 1,030 alopecia areata patients over the course of 3 years. During that time, researchers evaluated the improvement or cure rate of the participants as they engaged in different hair loss treatments for alopecia areata symptoms. Specifically, researchers noted the following:

1. Severity: The degree to which hair loss affected the body was measured, including the number of affected areas as well as their size and proximal location on the body.

2. Treatment: The method of treatment was noted for each patient, giving researchers a cross-section of different treatment modalities to analyze.

3. Improvement: During the 3-year period, researchers assessed the regrowth of body hair for each participant, specifically by noting the regeneration of vellus hairs.

4. Cure Rate: Instances in which symptoms of alopecia areata were “cured” were also recorded.

As the study drew to a close, Dr. Uchiyama’s team found that patients who exhibited regeneration of vellus hairs also showed a significantly higher improvement in the reversal of alopecia areata symptoms. In general, these improvements meant hair regeneration. In some cases, however, improvements translated to the complete reversely of hair loss.

Most noteworthy, however, is the following: The rate of improvement (or cure) was affected by neither the chosen treatment method nor the severity of the patient’s unique condition.

“Our study suggested that there was no statistically significant influence of the initial treatment modalities on the prognosis of AA patients with severe hair loss, including both RPAA and chronic persistent AA,” Dr. Uchiyama and his research team concluded (i).

Understanding Alopecia Areata

To learn more about alopecia areata, readers are invited to review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide below:

1. What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is a unique type of hair loss characterized by rounded patches of concentrated baldness. These patches may occur on the scalp as well as other parts of the body. Concentrated areas of hair loss may occur simultaneously, affecting different parts of the body at the same time.

2. What are the symptoms of alopecia areata?

Symptoms for alopecia areata may differ from patient to patient, however they generally include:

  • Small, rounded bald patches on the scalp or other areas of the body.
  • Exposed skin is typically ‘normal’ in appearance, exhibiting no sign of scarring, discoloration, agitation, or irritation.
  • Hair loss may occur at different areas, at different times.
  • Hair regrowth may occur at different areas, at different times.
  • Hairs exhibit an “exclamation” shape, meaning they get narrower towards the base (scalp).
  • Tingling/ pain may be experienced at the affected area.
  • Condition may go into ‘remission’ for a period of time, during which symptoms are not noticeable.

3. What are the causes of alopecia areata?

Researchers are still studying alopecia areate to better understand the root causes of the condition. Though research is still ongoing, it appears that the condition may be caused by two main factors:

  • Heredity: Often times, alopecia areata is more common for individuals whose family members experience symptoms as well. This has led researchers to suggest the condition may be inherited genetically.
  • Autoimmune disease: Researchers also believe that the underlying cause of alopecia areata may be an autoimmune disease. In this scenario, the individual’s own immune system, specifically the T cells, attack the hair follicles and suppress growth.

4. How is alopecia areata diagnosed?

Alopecia areata is best diagnosed by a licensed dermatologist or skilled hair transplant surgeon. Typically, a simple and painless hair loss evaluation will diagnose the condition while also mapping the proper course of treatment.

Sources for this report include:

(i) “Rapidly Progressive Alopecia Shows Favorable Prognosis.” Published on Medicalxpress.com. Accessed November 26th, 2012.