Corticosteroids

Description
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defines corticosteroids and their various uses in treating alopecia like this:

  • Corticosteroids–Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs similar to a hormone called cortisol produced in the body. Because these drugs suppress the immune system if given orally, they are often used in the treatment of various autoimmune diseases, including alopecia areata. Corticosteroids may be administered in three ways for alopecia areata:
      • Local injections–Injections of steroids directly into hairless patches on the scalp and sometimes the brow and beard areas are effective in increasing hair growth in most people. It usually takes about 4 weeks for new hair growth to become visible. Injections deliver small amounts of cortisone to affected areas, avoiding the more serious side effects encountered with long-term oral use. The main side effects of injections are transient pain, mild swelling, and sometimes changes in pigmentation, as well as small indentations in the skin that go away when injections are stopped. Because injections can be painful, they may not be the preferred treatment for children. After 1 or 2 months, new hair growth usually becomes visible, and the injections usually have to be repeated monthly. The cortisone removes the confused immune cells and allows the hair to grow. Large areas cannot be treated, however, because the discomfort and the amount of medicine become too great and can result in side effects similar to those of the oral regimen.
      • Oral corticosteroids–Corticosteroids taken by mouth are a mainstay of treatment for many autoimmune diseases and may be used in more extensive alopecia areata. But because of the risk of side effects of oral corticosteroids, such as hypertension and cataracts, they are used only occasionally for alopecia areata and for shorter periods of time.
    • Topical ointments–Ointments or creams containing steroids rubbed directly onto the affected area are less traumatic than injections and, therefore, are sometimes preferred for children. However, corticosteroid ointments and creams alone are less effective than injections; they work best when combined with other topical treatments, such as minoxidil or anthralin.

One of these approaches is most likely the first treatment a new alopecia patient will undertake. There are differing views on exactly how effective these treatment are. If you have experience with this treatment, whether positive or negative, please take a moment to share your review with those who are considering it for themselves or their family member.

Comments

  1. I really only stopped this treatment when it became too expensive. My insurance didn’t cover it and it just got to be too much. My alopecia did get much worse after I stopped.
    If you go this route, try to be consistent and get the shots pretty regularly. You should see regrowth in about 4-6 weeks, at least that was my experience.
    Would you recommend this treatment to a friend?: Yes
    Pros: Seems to work well.
    Cons: This can get expensive when you are getting treated every 3 or 4 weeks.
    It was not very comfortable…to say the least.

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