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Dermatol Clin. 1996 Oct;14(4):733-7.

Treatment of alopecia areata.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.


Some individuals question whether any treatment is effective in severe alopecia areata. Certainly many patients, especially those with mild disease, experience spontaneous hair regrowth; however, results of double-blind studies clearly indicate that some treatments do promote hair regrowth even in those with extensive disease. Some patients never show either spontaneous or treatment-related hair regrowth; others experience hair regrowth only while maintained on treatment, repeatedly losing hair within a few weeks of discontinuing treatment and regrowing it within several weeks after restarting treatment. Some patients who have been responsive to treatment may experience exacerbation of their disease such that even high-dose systemic steroids do not prevent the development of alopecia universalis. Some treatments appear to work on some patients some or all of the time, but no treatment appears to work on all patients all of the time. We would suggest a few practical points that we find useful: To maximize the potential for cosmetic hair growth in alopecia areata that is extensive or flaring, treat the entire scalp instead of "chasing" patches. Do not change any topical treatment sooner than 3 months after starting it; early regrowth may first be present at 3 months. Cosmetic regrowth may take a year or more to achieve. Maintenance treatment increases the likelihood of maintenance of cosmetic hair growth, but patches of hair loss may still come and go. Atopic patients who experience seasonal hair loss may benefit (ie, have less severe hair loss flares or respond more readily to topical therapy) by using an antihistamine or mast cell stabilizer prophylactically. Whether one looks at the therapeutic cup as half full or half empty, most patients urge us to continue to try to find safe, effective long-term treatments for this disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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