In an article on the Healthline website, a health expert discusses the causes of alopecia areata and the pros and cons of the various treatments available for the condition. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the patient’s hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. The author notes that, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), the condition affects as many as 6.8 million people in the United States and 147 million individuals globally.
In the article, Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas, states, “Most of the treatments involve keeping the immune system from attacking the hair follicles. Treatments range from prescription topicals to prescription pills, in-office injections, and in-office topical therapies.” A few OTC options are also available. and the article notes that it is essential to remember that not all treatments work for every patient and that in some cases hair loss might occur again, even when treatment was previously successful.
The article also lists the five best treatments for treating this condition, including topical immunotherapy, OTC minoxidil, and other prescription therapies. Topical immunotherapy entails applying chemicals directly to the scalp in order to cause an allergic reaction, which in turn stimulates the immune system and aids hair growth. The pro of this therapy is that it can be very successful; however, tcons include general adverse effects, such as a potentially severe rash, persistent dermatitis, generalized eczema, and urticarial reactions.
For mild alopecia areata, experts recommend the use of topical minoxidil, which is available in various OTC formulations. Typically, topical minoxidil solutions are available in strengths of 2% and 5%. It is applied directly to the scalp or any area where it is required, once or twice per day, and works by encouraging blood flow to the hair follicles, stimulating dormant follicles, and promoting hair growth. The pros include easy accessibility, few adverse effects if used as directed, and relatively low cost. The cons of topical minoxidil include its inability to work for extensive hair loss and, if too much is used, its association with weight gain, headaches, and irregular heartbeat.
Other recommended treatments include prescription medications, such as topical anthralin and topical and oral corticosteroids, which are associated with various adverse effects. For example, the use of anthralin is associated with irritant dermatitis, and it may cause temporary discoloration of the skin. The long-term use of corticosteroids, particularly oral steroids, are associated with acne, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, and blood glucose. Lastly, the article noted that although alopecia areata is a challenging condition to treat, patients should discuss the various treatments with their primary healthcare provider to ascertain the best option for their needs.
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.
« Click here to return to OTC Update.