What is the chance that I might develop alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is one of the most severe types of hair loss, in some cases causing sufferers to go completely bald. Now a new study has attempted to indicate the global incidence rate; according to Dr Guttman-Yassky, figures suggest that alopecia areata affects approximately 1.7% of the population. Although this falls majorly behind androgenetic alopecia, it is still the second most common type of hair loss. It also means it is on a par with conditions such as psoriasis.

The 1.7% incidence rate suggested by Dr Guttman-Yassky follows a similar study in 2015. Carried out by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, the study put the global incidence rate of alopecia areata at 2%.

Interestingly, this study also revealed the condition does not affect one gender more than the other. It also tends to develop in later life, though it can affect all ages. When developed in childhood or adolescence, alopecia areata poses a higher risk of extensive disease over the patient’s lifetime.

Anxiety, depression and other autoimmune diseases are linked to the condition, with younger patients more likely to suffer significant psychological trauma.

Study provides new hope for sufferers of alopecia areata

While awareness of alopecia areata has increased, currently there is no cure for the condition. However, a new study has provided hope for sufferers, showing the ruxolitnib drug caused significant hair regrowth in 75% of participants.

The open-label clinical trial carried out by the Columbia University Medical Centre, followed 12 patients with moderate and severe alopecia areata. Average hair growth at the end of the trial was marked at an impressive 92%. It’s not the first time JAK inhibitors have been tested as a possible cure and results have been extremely promising thus far.

The drug works by reducing inflammation. While very little is known about the cause of alopecia areata, it does appear to have a close link to inflammation. However, further trials are needed to assess the safety of the drug.

Ruxolitnib is most frequently used to treat various forms of cancer and it is incredibly potent, which means that it also comes with potentially nasty side effects. Initial studies have involved a very small number of people, so larger, more in-depth studies are required to establish how safe it would be for patients to use. Initial estimates are that drugs such as ruxolitnib could be used to treat alopecia areata by 2020.

While research continues into finding a possible cure for alopecia areata, there are currently a few treatment options for patients who suffer with mild to moderate alopecia areata. Those suffering from the condition under the age of 18 are advised to seek help from their doctor or dermatologist. Thanks to increased awareness of alopecia areata, there are support groups and charities set up to help those suffering from the psychological issues the condition presents.

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