Alopecia Types of Treatment

The FDA has not approved a specific medication that directly addresses the cause of Alopecia. However, autoimmune diseases are often treated by suppressing the immune system, as the body is valiantly trying to defend itself from what it views as a foreign invader. The body’s white blood cells efficiently eliminate invasive attackers such as viruses, parasites and bacteria.

In the case of Alopecia, the immune system is attacking healthy, normal substances that arise within the body itself. Attempting to suppress this natural response has shown to be successful in treating some of the manifestations of autoimmune diseases. The side effects of such medication, however, are sometimes worse than the cure. In the case of Areata, there are many other medications and procedures available.

The most common type of treatment for most forms of Alopecia is to have a health care professional inject corticosteroids directly into the scalp of the affected area. Corticosteroids work to suppress the immune response. The injection sites are spaced one centimeter, or approximately 0.4 inches, apart. This medication is then repeated every four to six weeks to promote the growth of hair.

Topical corticosteroid cream applied to the affected areas is another method used to encourage hair growth. This method of treating patients is preferred for children who suffer from the condition.

Patients may also elect to take oral corticosteroids; however, the beneficial effects of the medication last only as long as they are ingested. Once a patient discontinues use, the symptoms of hair loss will return.

A type of medication called “contact immunotherapy” has proved to be effective in difficult cases that did not respond to corticosteroid treatments. The affected area is coated with a thin layer of medication, causing the skin to react with irritation by forming red, scaly patches. Three to four months of this therapy triggers new hair growth in 50 percent of cases. While this can prove to be a successful way to counteract the effects of alopecia, it does sometimes cause unfortunate side effects, such as swollen lymph nodes or contact dermatitis and is best reserved for use once other methods of managing the condition have been attempted first.

For severe cases of this condition, in which large patches of skin are affected, ultraviolet A light therapy has shown to be particularly effective. The skin of the affected area is first coated with a thin layer of a medication called Psoralin. This medication increases skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light. The skin is then exposed to UVA rays, typically from a special lamp in the physician’s office. The therapy is continued for four to six months and is often the preferred method to manage manifestations of alopecia when other treatments are contraindicated or prove ineffective.

Because the condition can sometimes reverse itself and spontaneously enter a remission period, patients may also choose to forego medical treatments and let the hair grow back on its own, using hairpieces or wigs to cover the affected areas while the hair is growing. This is the preferred method of treating extremely mild cases when only small patches of hair are affected.

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