alopecia areata by jizhen1947


									                     SOUTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE NHS TRUST

                                  Department of Dermatology
                                     Amersham Hospital

                               Patient Information Sheet

                                      Alopecia Areata

This is a condition in which localised areas of hair loss appear on the scalp. It is the main cause
of patchy hair loss in both adults and children. It is one of a group of conditions known as
autoimmune diseases, where there is a failure of self-recognition, so the body's defences
mistakenly attack a part of one's own body (in this case one's hair). It is not an infectious
condition. There may be just one small patch or several well defined areas of hair loss. Some
people have a family history of alopecia areata and in about 10% there is a family history of
other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease or vitiligo. The nails may show pits, ridges
or irregular thickening.

The course of the disease is variable. Most cases are mild and self limiting. More patches may
develop or an existing patch may extend. About 10% of cases may progress to total scalp hair
loss (alopecia totalis) or, more rarely, total body hair loss (alopecia universalis). Occasionally,
patches may affect the beard area, eyebrows or pubic hair with no loss of scalp hair. In
approximately a third of cases the initial attack lasts less than 6 months and in half of cases, less
than 1 year. Almost half of all cases recur within a few months to 5 years. Unfortunately,
recovery from alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis is uncommon.

As many cases get better without treatment, it is always difficult to assess the effectiveness of
treatments. Topical steroid lotions such as Dermovate may help a little. Recently, Dithranol
cream and Minoxidil lotion have been tried and have given good results in some patients.
PUVA light treatment may help some individuals. Unfortunately, there is no treatment that
will help everyone. Some treatments have given initially encouraging results but these
improvements have not been sustained. There is no documented proof that alternative
treatment helps.

Regrowth produced by any method may be slow and patchy, especially in those with severe
loss, so a wig may be needed. The Appliance Officer at this hospital has several catalogues
showing wigs available on the NHS. They come in all shades and styles and your hair style
and colour can be matched to one of them. Acrylic wigs are prescribed at a cost of £48.00.
They wear well and you can have 2 wigs per year. They can be washed easily at home. Real
hair ones are much more expensive (prescription charge £184.95) and are only prescribed for
certain medical problems. Only two can be obtained every 3 years. They have the disadvantage
of having to be sent away for cleaning each month.

It is always reassuring to know that you are not the only one with this condition, and there is a
local support group for patients suffering from alopecia. For information, please contact Jenny
Webb tel. 01628 663760 or Jessica Clark tel. 01494 734353. You may also want to contact
Hairline International at the Alopecia Patient’s society- Lyon’s Court,1668, High
Street,Knowle, Solihull,West Midlands,B93 OLY.(Please send S.A.E A4 size to them).

VW/August 1993
SMC/April 1998

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