Alopecia areata (AA) is a medical condition in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with both AA and androgenetic alopecia (AGA) in past studies. It is hypothesized that vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties, and its role in epidermal cell proliferation may be responsible for its role in inflammatory and skin conditions such as AA and AGA. Additionally, AA has been linked to a mutation to the VDR gene. However, no studies to date have evaluated whether VDR levels are linked with alopecia; therefore, researchers recently sought to find out if the VDRs in the skin and blood could serve as a potential pathogenic marker for these conditions. Read more…
One of the best things about being part of a global alopecia community is that we enjoy meeting people who also have alopecia and are learning to thrive with alopecia every day, every where in the world. For this installment, we’re visiting with Amy Johnson, the Communications/Fundraising Manager of Alopecia UK, a charity organization based in the UK whose vision is to improve the lives of those affected by alopecia.
Alopecia is something in my life, but isn’t something that should change the person I am.
Q. When were you diagnosed with alopecia areata?
I first had two small patches of Alopecia Areata in October 2007. They quickly grew back. By 2010, I had lost everything. I have experienced different degrees of patchy regrowth since 2012.
Q. How has alopecia changed you as an individual?
I’d like to think that alopecia hasn’t changed me too much. I take the approach that alopecia is something in my life, but isn’t something that should change the person I am. Saying that, it has had a BIG impact on me in that I have ended up working for an alopecia charity so I suppose you could argue it has become my life! Read more…
A number of treatments can help hair regrow but none alter the long-term course of the disorder. Spontaneous remission occurs in up to 80% of patients with limited patchy hair loss of short duration (< 1 year) making it difficult to assess efficacy, particularly in mild forms of alopecia areata.
Some trials have been limited to patients with severe alopecia areata where spontaneous remission is unlikely. However, these patients tend to be resistant to all forms of treatment and the failure of a treatment in this setting does not exclude efficacy in mild alopecia areata. There are numerous case reports and uncontrolled case series claiming response of alopecia areata to diverse treatments. However, few treatments have been subjected to randomized controlled trials and, except for contact immunotherapy, there are few published data on long-term outcomes.
Topical corticosteroid therapy can be useful, especially in children who cannot tolerate injections. It is administered as follows:
- Fluocinolone acetonide cream 0.2%, betamethasone dipropionate cream 0.05%, or clobetasol 0.05% foam are the most common forms prescribed
- Topical cream or foam should be applied to the affected area and 1 cm beyond the circumference of the bald patch daily
- Treatment must be continued for a minimum of 3 months before regrowth can be expected, and maintenance therapy is often necessary
- For alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis, 2.5 g of clobetasol propionate covered with a plastic film 6 days/wk for 6 months helped a minority of patients
- Side effects include skin atrophy, folliculitis, or telangiectasia
- 28.5%-61% of patients achieve regrowth — 37.5% of patients experience relapse Read more…
A recent study out of Turkey found that in those with alopecia areata, low vitamin D levels are common and may relate to a more severe disease state.
Vitamin D has a well-established effect on the immune system and is linked to a variety of autoimmune diseases. Researchers have found that vitamin D may be able to help in some aspects of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. That being said, there hasn’t been any research looking at the relationship between vitamin D and AA.
Recently, researchers at the Şişli Etfal Eğitim ve Araştırma Hastanesi (Training and Research Hospital) in Turkey conducted a study to determine if vitamin D levels relate to AA and how vitamin D may affect disease severity. Read more…
Who Gets Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata (AA) affects approximately 2.1% of the population and does not discriminate based on sex or ethnicity. Anyone can have alopecia areata. It often begins in childhood. If you have a close family member with the disease, your risk of developing it is slightly increased. If your family member lost his or her first patch of hair before age 30, the risk to other family members is greater. Overall, one in five people with the disease has a family member who has it as well. Read more…
A team of investigators led by Columbia University Medical Center has uncovered eight genes that underpin alopecia areata, one of the most common causes of hair loss, as reported in a paper in the July 1, 2010 issue of Nature. Since many of the genes are also implicated in other autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes – and treatments have already been developed that target these genes – this discovery may lead to new treatments for the 5.3 million Americans affected by alopecia areata. Read more…