Alopecia is a condition that causes the hair on your scalp, face, or body to fall out. The severity of alopecia can range from mild to severe so the condition has a variety of “types.” While the condition generally presents with your hair falling out in round patches on some area of the body that normally grows hair. Patients who are treated with a certain cancer treatment allege in Taxotere lawsuit settlements that they suffered permanent injury, including alopecia.
Main Types of Alopecia
- Alopecia universalis – hair loss involves the entire scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, other facial hair, pubic hair and other areas that have hair.
- Alopecia totalis – hair loss is across the whole scalp
- Persistent patch alopecia areata – patchy hair loss on the scalp that lasts but doesn’t progress further
- Alopecia areata – small, round, areas of hair loss on the scalp or other area that grows hair
- Diffuse alopecia areata – sudden thinning of hair on the scalp that may look much like female or male pattern baldness
- Ophiasis alopecia areata – hair loss occurs along the sides and back of the scalp like a band.
When there is hair regrowth, it can fall out again for seemingly no reason. This can go on for years, though some with alopecia will regrow their hair permanently. There is no cure for alopecia, but know that because the hair follicles do not die, regrowth may occur even after years of hair loss.
Treatments for Hair Loss
Not every person with alopecia will see positive results with treatment, however, there are options available that may work for you.
For mild forms of alopecia, corticosteroids can be injected into the hairless patches on the scalp, or a topical minoxidil solutions can be applied daily to stimulate regrowth. Anthralin ointment can be applied daily, but it can cause skin irritation and discoloration. Topical corticosteroids can also be used alone and sometimes in conjunction with other therapies including minoxidil.
For the more severe forms of alopecia, including alopecia universalis and totalis, oral corticosteroids can be used, though they have serious risks that must be weighed against the benefits. Topical immunotherapy can alter the body’s immune response enough for hair regrowth, though this type of therapy may not be widely available where you live. Immunomodulatory drugs, normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and certain blood disorders is showing promise for some patients with extensive hair loss. The FDA has yet to approve these medications for use as a treatment for alopecia, and the side effects are relatively unknown at this time.
Alopecia may be caused by a number of factors including genes that predispose some to the condition. Considered and autoimmune disease, patients who develop alopecia often have a familiar history of rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, lupus, pernicious anemia, and Addison’s disease. People who develop alopecia tend to have a higher rate of atopic eczema, asthma, thyroid disease, and nasal allergies.
Alopecia is not always caused by an autoimmune issue. In fact, though many chemotherapy drugs are known to cause temporary hair loss, some may cause permanent alopecia. In fact, women across the country are alleging that Taxotere causes permanent hair loss and the manufacturer never warned them or their physicians about this side effect.