In cases of severe alopecia, topical immunotherapy may be beneficial. In this therapy, allergic irritation in the skin is triggered by topically applying strong allergens to the skin. The allergens include squaric acid dibutylester (SADBE) and diphencyprone (DPCP). These products are, however, not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and their long-term safety is not known, although the treatment has been used for almost 20 years with no major adverse effects reported. Anthralin is another immunotherapy agent that is used. Some studies have shown no response to this treatment, while others have shown varying response rates for patchy alopecia, with lesser response for severe alopecia. How immunotherapy works is not clearly understood.
Another common treatment for alopecia is Psoralen plus UV-A light therapy, a treatment known as "PUVA." The initial response rate varies from 20-73%, but patients usually relapse after treatment is stopped, and is generally not considered an effective long-term treatment for alopecia.
Things to Know
There's a significant linkage between alopecia, and stress and mental health. People with alopecia are at higher risk for developing anxiety, personality disorders, depression, and paranoia, and as many as three-fourths of all alopecia patients may suffer from some sort of mental health condition.
Patients who have extensive hair loss tend to have less spontaneous remission than patients who have small patches of hair loss. In one study of 50 patients, 24% experienced spontaneous complete or nearly complete regrowth at some stage over a 3 year period.
Mary Shomon, About.com's Thyroid Guide since 1997, is a nationally-known patient advocate and best-selling author of 10 books on health, including "The Thyroid Guide to Hair Loss," "The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss," "Living Well With Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know," "Living Well With Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism," "Living Well With Autoimmune Disease," "Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia," and the "Thyroid Guide to Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Success." Click here for more information on Mary Shomon.