Before we discuss the treatment options available, there is one thing we need to address:
Alopecia is highly unpredictable.
For most people with Alopecia, they may get some small balding patches for a time and then the hair will regrow and that will be the end of the story.
For a smaller percentage of people, they may lose some hair and then it will regrow, then fall out again and regrow again and fall out, and so on and so forth. It can be a continuous cycle of hair loss. This is possibly the work type of alopecia experience because with every new cycle of Alopecia hair loss and regrowth there is a new level of expectation, loss and grief. Often losing your hair the second time is worse than the first. If only because you thought you had conquered it and found out it was a false hope.
For and even smaller percentage of people, the hair may fall out and, unfortunately, not regrow.
There is currently no cure for Alopecia. There are some exciting things in the pipeline that do look promising and we will bring you the most up-to-date information as it becomes available - so watch this space!
Six Treatment Options for Alopecia
In saying this, there are six different treatment options that you can try:
1. Cortisone Injections
The first course of action should be cortisone (steroid) injections. Cortisone is a very powerful anti-inflammatory drug that helps to suppress the immune system. Injections have proven to be the most effective if you get in early. In fact, it will increase your chance by 50% of hair regrowth if you get in early than if you don’t do anything. These injections are painful - anything going into your scalp is not nice - and usually you need them every few weeks. If it is going to work, often times it might be 6-8 weeks before you see any kind of results.
2. Cortisone Creams
These are less effective than the injections because you’re applying them to the surface of the scalp rather than injecting them deeper into the skin where the hair follicles are. Cortisone creams would need to be applied on a daily basis.
This is something that is effective in Androgenetic Alopecia but that’s quite a bit different to Alopecia Areata or autoimmune related hair loss. Studies show that it is not that effective for Alopecia Areata however, there is no harm in giving it a go. It certainly does act as a vasodilator - it does help stimulate the blood vessels around it and also the hair follicles. Give it a crack, you’ve got nothing to lose. We do advise you check with your doctor first.
4. Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is something that is often put forward as a treatment for Alopecia. Anecdotally people do report that it has been beneficial to them, however, there are no clinical studies for Alopecia Areata or the autoimmune related form of Alopecia. So we couldn’t say with confidence that this treatment will definitely work for you. Similarly, there are no results to show it works in X% of people because there are no studies that have given us this evidence.
5. Lifestyle Factors
People often say stress is the cause of Alopecia. In reality, it’s actually not. Stress is not a huge contributor to Alopecia Areata, though it certainly can be. If you’ve noticed peak periods of stress in your life when you started getting patches forming on your scalp or on your body, chances are it is related to that. Where possible, remove yourself from those stress factors. Sometimes you may have a really important job but I would think that your hair and your overall health are more important. Your body is sending you a signal.
This is also known as UV Light Treatment. Your scalp is treated with UV radiation. It’s something that has probably fallen out of favour over the last few years. Although there are some small studies that will say that it has acceptable cosmetic results. In my personal experience of 22 years in looking after people with Alopecia, is that it isn’t very successful. If you are going to do it, be careful: only do it in small doses, and don’t do it over long periods of time as it could potentially cause Melanomas or skin cancers and the consequent other problems that go with that, plus the premature ageing of the skin.
New Developments in Treatment
There are some clinical trials going on at the moment. There have been some good results, predominantly with people who have had short term Alopecia. For people who have had long term Alopecia (2+ years), they haven’t found these new treatments to be all that effective. This is a really new and exciting area that we will explore further in an additional post.
Bonus 7th Treatment Option: Cosmetic Approaches
These are real human hair wigs, various forms of extensions or crown extensions, hair systems, cosmetic hair thickening products, etc. We will look at these more closely in future episodes. In the meantime, give us a call and get in touch: Ph: 1300 427 778 (Intl: +612 92124950). Or send us your details via our contact page.
Sydney Studio: 02 9212 4950
New Zealand: 0276530462