Treatment Options for Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata (spot baldness, patch baldness) is an autoimmune disease in which the person's immune system decides to attack its own hair follicles. It is an unpredictable but reversible condition and there is no treatment at the moment that delivers reliable results. Sometimes hair grows back after a few years with no treatment necessary and it stays, and sometimes it falls out again. Due to its unpredictable nature, it is difficult to say whether the treatment you are currently using is effective or not. Many people decide to ignore this condition and take no treatment at all, in order to avoid possible side-effects. Alopecia areata in itself is harmless and thus doing nothing will not lead to any additional health problems.
The most common treatment for alopecia areata, which has been proven effective in a number of patients, is the use of steroids, such as cortisone, that can be either injected into the bald spot or applied topically. Steroids are supposed to suppress the local auto-immune reaction that is causing the hair loss. The second most frequently used drug is the topical, minoxidil, the most common hair growth stimulant used to treat male pattern baldness. Minoxidil can also be used as a supportive treatment to steroid therapy. Both minoxidil and steroids are effective only in patients with small bald spots. Another common method of treating alopecia areata is the topical application of an irritant called anthralin, which can also be applied in combination with minoxidil.
Topical immunotherapy, which consists of a topical application of an immuno-suppressant such as cyclosporine or diphencyprone, is considered to be the most effective treatment option for patients with extensive bald areas. But it is also one of the most drastic approaches when it comes to causing severe side effects. The alternative treatment for extensive alopecia areata is PUVA, which stands for "psoralen plus ultraviolet A radiation". As its name says, it is a photochemotherapy, consisting of a topical or oral application of the drug called psoralen, followed by ultraviolet radiation. Potential side effects stem mainly from the use of ultraviolet radiation.
As is common with all hair loss treatments, there are alternative non-prescription remedies for alopecia areata too, which do not require professional consultation. Calosol is one such treatment that has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. It contains a number of ingredients commonly found in natural hair loss products used to treat male pattern baldness, although it claims to be specifically designed to address alopecia areata. The results of such treatments are typically questionable and they cannot be recommended on this site.