Alopecia Areata - Treatment | Dr Therianou Therianou MD, PhD

Is there hope for treatment of alopecia areata?

23 Jan 2020

What is alopecia areata?

This is a disease that develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles (where hair grows from), which can cause hair loss anywhere on the body. Many people who develop alopecia areata develop a round or oval bald patch on their scalp.

The majority of patients who develop alopecia areata are otherwise healthy.They have hair loss and sometimes nail changes, but they remain in good health.

Hair loss tends to be unpredictable. Hair may regrow without treatment. This happens more often when someone has a few bald patches. When the hair regrows, it may fall out again—or it may not.

If alopecia areata affects the nails, you may see dents, ridges, or brittle nails. Some people develop red nails.

Currently, there are no approved therapies for Alopecia Areata, and many of the available treatment options lack considerable efficacy.


The research leading to new treatment

Because hair loss can greatly affect a person’s quality of life, researchers continue to study alopecia areata. Much of this research focuses on developing more effective treatments. This is giving new hope to patients, especially those living with widespread hair loss.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a type of drugs which have clear science, supporting their use in alopecia areata, and an increasing number of positive studies demonstrate their efficacy in regrowing hair.

Although not yet specifically approved for alopecia areata, JAK inhibitors are already making their way into expert authored treatment algorithms for the management of this disease, especially in severe cases who have already tried other treatments.

These are the most advanced therapies in the pipeline for the treatment of Alopecia Areata patients. Hair experts see great results but hair loss reoccurs once the drug is discontinued.

Tofacitinib is one of these drugs. It has recently been approved for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis, so it is being used by the rheumatologists.

So far it seems to be safe drug, even if there are some side effects. Because this is still new, we know less about the risk of longer-term side effects than we do for other medicines.

The most common side effects are headaches and diarrhea. These aren’t usually serious and should soon pass. Feeling sick is fairly common, especially when you first start taking tofacitinib.

The other concern is the unknown risk of lymphoma.

As these drugs suppress the immune system, your doctor may decide not to prescribe this treatment if you’re pregnant, planning to try for a baby, or breastfeeding or if you have or have had:  an infection, or repeated or serious previous infections such as shingles, lung disease, liver or kidney problems, heart problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, stomach ulcers, or history of cancer.

Forecasts suggest the first approved therapy for Alopecia Areata will likely be available in 2022. In the meantime, some patients are provided with this medication as ‘off-label’ use.

If you ‘re concerned about your hair loss or hair thinning, book a consultation with a hair expert today. New developments are consistently being made within the hair loss sector.

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