What is alopecia?
Alopecia areata is the name for a condition in which a person experiences hair loss as a result of the immune system attacking the hair follicles. We do not know why this happens. Often, the hair loss only involves a few patches. Sometimes it can be more extensive. The scalp is the most commonly affected area, although the eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair may also be affected. About 4 million people in the United States have alopecia areata. It affects people of both sexes, all ethnic backgrounds and can occur at any age. It is only rarely associated with other autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid disease in children.
· Alopecia Areata is the name for patches of hair loss, usually in the scalp
· Alopecia Totalis is the name for complete loss of scalp hair.
· Alopecia Universalis is the name for complete loss of hair on the head, face and body.
Will my child’s hair regrow?
Hair may or may not regrow. Hair that is trying to regrow may respond to treatment and continue to regrow. There is little evidence that hair that is not trying or able to regrow can be ‘made’ to regrow by the use of medications or other treatment.
What determines if hair will regrow?
· Age of the child: The younger your child is when hair loss starts, the less likely it is to grow back.
· Amount of hair involved: If your child has many areas of hair loss, it is not as likely to grow back.
· Amount of time: The longer the hair loss continues, the less likely it is to grow back.
Your dermatology provider may prescribe medications to try to help the hair to regrow. These may include topical corticosteroids (gel, cream, ointment, or solution), topical calcineurin inhibitors (Elidel cream, Protopic ointment), a topical form of vitamin A (topical retinoid), topical minoxidil (Rogaine), topical anthralin, or corticosteroid injections. Please follow the instructions for use very carefully. If the skin becomes irritated, or if you have any questions, please call your provider. There is little evidence that use of systemic (oral) medications such as corticosteroids produce lasting hair regrowth, and the side effects of these medications usually outweigh any potential benefit. New treatments for alopecia areata are being developed, and may become available in the next few years.
If you are interested in wigs or hairpieces, you may wish to contact Locks of Love (www.locksoflove.org) or Wigs for Kids (www.wigsforkids.org). They provide affordable, sometimes free hairpieces for children with alopecia.
National Alopecia Areata Foundation
P.O. Box 150760
San Rafael, CA 94915-0760