The autoimmune condition alopecia areata is thought to affect two people in every 1,000 in the UK and there is no known cure – there is also no treatment that works for everyone suffering from alopecia areata.
Some treatments work for some people and one that has been found to produce effective results for many sufferers is the topical hair loss medication Minoxidil. Recently, researchers from the Sao Paulo Universidade Federal carried out a systematic review of the drug to treat the scalp-only type of alopecia areata. This review revealed it can be effective at treating the condition, along with patchy forms of hair loss.
Understanding the review
The Brazilian study analysed 5% Minoxidil, finding that compared to a placebo, it produced effective results for those suffering from alopecia areata. It also showed to have no negative side effects.
Researchers looked into the international medical literature, consisting of alopecia areata interventions and random clinical trials. Not only did the results highlight Minoxidil’s effectiveness at treating patchy hair loss, but it also proved to be safe too.
Is Minoxidil a viable alopecia areata treatment?
Minoxidil is currently one of only two FDA approved hair loss drugs. It’s used to treat temporary forms of hair loss, as well as to slow the onset of male and female pattern baldness.
Currently, the most common alopecia areata treatment is intralesional corticosteroid injections which are injected into the patches of hair loss and work by suppressing the immune system. If it promotes hair regrowth, then the results are usually visible within a short period of time and there are few potential side effects.
As with all treatments, though, corticosteroid injections are not a cure and cannot prevent further hair loss occurring in the future. Often, they are combined with topical minoxidil for optimal results as most patients that use minoxidil as a standalone treatment may have to wait many months to see any positive outcome.
Minoxidil and corticosteroid injections are also less effective at treating more extensive forms of alopecia areata and there are limited treatment options available for those sufferers. In the US, the FDA is throwing its weight behind finding a safe but effective alopecia areata treatment by granting Fast Track Designation to pharmaceutical companies developing JAK inhibitors as a potential treatment for alopecia. Fast track designation means an expedited review of a drug that can treat a ‘serious or life-threatening condition’.