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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Although there is no permanent cure for alopecia areata, there are ways that may short-circuit the body's autoimmune reaction in the scalp and encourage hair regrowth. Options include:

  • Cortisone cream applied on the bald patches or cortisone solution injected into the bald patches to suppress the immune reaction

  • Immunotherapy using chemicals such as diphenylcyclopropenone (also called diphencyprone or DCP) or squaric acid dibutyl ester (SADBE) on the scalp that can produce an allergic reaction, which may neutralize the turned-on immune cells.

  • Topical minoxidil (Rogaine), which may increase hair growth by accelerating the speed of the natural hair cycle and increasing the diameter of hairs that begin to grow.

  • Anthralin (Drithocreme, Dritho-Scalp, Micanol) applied to the scalp, which causes a scalp irritation that may stimulate early hair regrowth, and can be used with minoxidil

  • Psoralen and ultraviolet A phototherapy (controlled exposure of the affected skin to ultraviolet light)

  • A short course of corticosteroids (such as prednisone) by mouth, or rarely, intravenously (through a vein) for adult patients with extensive hair loss

Your treatment depends on several factors, including your age (some treatments are only for adults), the amount of your hair loss, and your willingness to deal with any treatment-related discomfort or side effects.

If you have mild hair loss, you may choose to simply modify your hairstyle or wear a hairpiece until the bald area fills in.

If you lost a large amount of hair on your scalp, you may choose to wear a wig or hairpiece until your treatment starts to work. If you have an obvious loss of eyebrow hair, you may choose to have injections of tiny dots of colored pigments into the eyebrow area (a procedure called dermatography). If you find it hard to cope with the change in your appearance, mention this to your doctor or seek advice from a mental health professional.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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