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Severe Alopecia: Is There Hope?

Hair loss is common, but for adults and children with alopecia, the extent of hair loss can be devastating. This autoimmune condition is very different from typical hair loss. It occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing a loss of hair on the body, face, and scalp.

Alopecia often strikes before the age of 20, and in some cases, it starts in childhood. While alopecia varies by type, it causes total hair loss at its most severe. More than a mere cosmetic issue, alopecia can have a significant impact on your quality of life and take an emotional and psychological toll on those affected.

Often unpredictable and challenging to treat, alopecia requires specialized treatment. That’s why it’s vital to seek evaluation from a dermatologist. As the medical director of Hines Dermatology, Dr. Yvonne Hines offers patients with alopecia the highest quality of care and brings extensive experience to treating even the most severe forms of alopecia.

If you’re struggling with severe alopecia, there is hope.

The science of hair

Alopecia interrupts the body’s natural hair production cycle. Under normal circumstances, the hair goes through phases: growing, resting, shedding, and regenerating. The anagen phase sees active growth, and this phase may last for several years. 

During the transitional (catagen) phase, hair stops growing and separates from the follicle. Upon entering the telogen phase, the follicle rests and then sheds hair before new hair grows from the same follicle.

Alopecia-damaged hair follicles fall out more rapidly than they’re regenerated, leading to patches of hair loss, or in the case of severe alopecia, total hair loss. 

Severe form of alopecia 

Alopecia universalis (AU) is the most severe form of alopecia areata. Patients with alopecia universalis lose all of the hair on their body and scalp. In some cases, AU is associated with other conditions such as atopic dermatitis and thyroid disorders, but most people with AU have no other signs or symptoms.

AU can affect your confidence and self-esteem. Patients with AU report higher levels of anxiety and depression than those without the disorder.

Treating alopecia universalis

There is no cure for AU, but there is hope. The drug tofacitinib is shown to help regrow hair in patients with AU. Tofacitinib works by blocking janus kinase, a family of pro-inflammatory substances. 

This suppresses the immune response associated with alopecia. Currently FDA-approved for treating psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, tofacitinib is prescribed off-label for AU after careful consideration of the risks and potential side effects.

Ruxolitinib is another janus kinase inhibitor that may help regrow hair in patients with AU. Other AU treatment options include corticosteroid injections and oral corticosteroids. These powerful anti-inflammatory medications suppress the immune system to help hair regrow.

Dr. Hines treats a broad range of dermatologic conditions, including alopecia. For treatment of this and all other dermatological conditions, visit Hines Dermatology in Attleboro, Massachusetts. 

Contact us at 508-222-1976 or book online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hines. Another option is to send a message to Dr. Hines and the team here on our website.

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