Alopecia Areata Treatment
A few current forms of treatment for alopecia areata include topical medications (applied directly to the skin), oral medications, and photochemotherapy. It's important to know that while these treatment options may promote hair growth, none of them prevent new patches of hair loss nor do they cure the underlying disease.
While there is no cure or drug that is approved for alopecia areata treatment, some people find that medications approved for other purposes can help hair grow back, at least temporarily. These medications include:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine®)
- Anthralin (Psoriatec®)
- Topical sensitizers
- Oral cyclosporine
It is important to keep in mind that while these alopecia areata treatment options may promote hair growth, none of them prevent new patches of hair loss and none of them cure the underlying disease. You should consult with your healthcare professional about the best treatment option for you.
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that are similar to a hormone produced in the body called cortisol. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system (if given orally), which is why they are used to treat alopecia areata -- an autoimmune disease. Corticosteroids can be administered in three ways: local injections, oral pills, and topical ointments.
Corticosteroids that are injected directly into hairless patches on the scalp (sometimes the brow and beard areas) usually increase hair growth, although it usually takes about 4 weeks for new hair growth to become visible. The main side effects of local injections are:
- Temporary pain
- Mild swelling
- Changes in pigmentation
- Small indentations in the skin that go away when the injections are stopped.
Injections can be painful, which is why they may not be the preferred treatment for children. For adults with alopecia areata, large areas cannot be treated with injections because the discomfort and the amount of medicine become too great and can result in side effects similar to those of oral corticosteroids.