Alopecia areata relapses may decrease with age, new study finds

Alopecia Areata is one of the more severe forms of hair loss, sometimes resulting in total baldness. It can affect children, men and women, and it can be particularly devastating due to the fact that there is no cure. However, a new study has provided hope for those suffering with the condition, revealing that the chance of relapsing could decrease with age.

The study, published within the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, provides hope for those worried about the uncertainty of the condition. Here, we’ll look at what the study found and why it’s great news for those living with Alopecia Areata.

Understanding the study

The Israeli study carried out by the Department of Dermatology within the Chaim Sheba Medical Centre, looked into the long-term patterns of Alopecia Areata. They analysed 104 cases, spanning different age groups, with 31 cases reported to have started in childhood. Out of the remaining cases, 63 had adult-onset Alopecia Areata and 10 had late-onset Alopecia Areata. The research team followed the cases for 7 years before reporting their findings.

The patients had varying degrees of the condition, with 88.5% suffering from a mild form, 3.8% suffering from a moderate form, and 7.7% suffering from a severe form of Alopecia Areata during the first onset of the condition. Out of those who were diagnosed in childhood, 74% experienced significant or full regrowth, those who had adult-onset Alopecia Areata saw 94% achieve regrowth, while those with late-onset Alopecia Areata experienced 100% regrowth.  Just 13% of those diagnosed in childhood saw no regrowth at all, followed by 3% of those with adult-onset Alopecia Areata.

Results show that the frequency of relapse was fairly high, but it did decrease with age. Both the severity of the condition and how often patients relapsed was significantly reduced in older patients. So, it shows that although relapses can be frequent in the beginning, they do become less frequent the older a patient gets.

What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia is the general name given to hair loss, and Areata is one of its most severe forms. It can start at any age, and it’s an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks its own cells, including the cells of the hair follicles, thinking they are attacking the body. This results in hair loss on the scalp, as well as on other areas of the body such as the eyebrows and in extreme cases, the eyelashes.

There is no way to tell how much hair loss will occur as it differs between patients. As of yet, there is no cure for the condition, though there are cover-up treatments available. Many people mistakenly believe the condition causes the entire hair to fall out, resulting in permanent baldness. However, the reality is most sufferers experience small patches of hair loss and it does typically regrow within 12 months. It is the more severe forms of the condition which can lead to permanent hair loss.

Overall, Alopecia Areata is a distressing condition to deal with. However, this new research shows patients often get a respite from the condition as they age, with fewer relapses reported by the majority of those suffering from the condition.