Hair Transplant for Alopecia Areata: Options and Considerations

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease which leads to sudden loss of hair in oval or circular patches on the scalp and other regions of the body. Unlike ordinary hair loss, alopecia areata is more noticeable and frequently results in whole bald patches.

 It occurs when the body’s immune system incorrectly targets the hair follicles, leading them to shrink and significantly prevent hair growth.

Alopecia areata affects about 2% of the worldwide population, making it a fairly common disorder. It can develop at any age, however it usually appears during childhood or adolescence. 

The condition does not differentiate based on gender or ethnicity, though there may be hereditary factors that increase risk. Even though there lacks a cure for alopecia areata, hair transplantation could serve as an effective therapy option for certain people.

 This article provides insights into some of the most effective treatments for alopecia areata.

Source – ScienceDirect

What are the causes of Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune illness that causes hair loss on the face, scalp, and other body areas. It occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Several variables could lead to its development, including:

  1. The development of alopecia areata can be triggered by environmental factors, such as stress, trauma, and viral infections. 
  2. It is currently unclear how these triggers affect the development of the condition.The presence of alopecia areata in the family may indicate an inherited condition. This is known as hereditary.
  3. The immune system plays a crucial role in the development of alopecia by randomly attacking the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. The reason why the immune system attacks the hair follicles of those with hair loss is not clear.
  4. Hair loss due to hormonal changes is common in women, especially those with PCOD/PCOS, thyroid problems, hormone disorders and other hormonal conditions. Pregnancy and menopause can also cause hair loss in women. 

Hair Transplant Solutions for Alopecia Areata

Hair implants and transplants are popular methods of modern hair transplantation. Modern technology allows you to recover faster from surgery and have less downtime. Many patients report positive benefits.

It is a long-term hair loss cure that involves a couple of surgical methods used by the surgeon to remove grafts. These include: Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).

Factors to consider before choosing any treatment options

Patients must have stable alopecia areata, which means that hair loss patches have not changed in size or number for an extended period of time. This is as opposed to active alopecia areata, which is defined by ongoing hair loss and new patches. 

A thorough medical examination by a dermatologist or trichologist is required to determine the stability of the illness and rule out any active autoimmune activity.

One key difficulty is the unpredictable nature of autoimmune responses in alopecia areata. Even if the condition appears to be stable, the immune system may reactivate and harm the transplanted hair follicles, resulting in their loss. 

This danger makes hair transplantation less effective for alopecia areata than other types of hair loss. In addition, the transplant’s success rate varies, and patients must have realistic expectations about the result and the possibility of additional treatments.

Hair Transplant Techniques for Alopecia Areata

Treatments for individuals with alopecia areata include hair transplantation methods that aim to restore hair in the ranges affected by the condition. The primary approaches are listed below:

1. Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) : FUT requires removing a strip of scalp from the donor site, which is usually at the back of the head. Under a microscope, this strip is split into individual follicular units, which are afterwards implanted in the bald spots.

  • Advantages: This approach allows for the transplantation of a high number of grafts in a single session, making it suited for patients with significant hair loss. It also has a better rate of follicle survival after transplantation.
  • Disadvantages: FUT causes a linear scar at the donor site, which is apparent if the hair is cut short. The healing time is greater than with FUE, and the operation may be more disruptive and uncomfortable.

2. Follicular unit extraction (FUE) : FUE involves extracting individual hair follicles from the donor site with a tiny punch tool. The follicles are then implanted in the recipient locations.

  • Advantages: FUE has the advantage of leaving minimum scarring because it does not entail removing a piece of scalp. The recovery period is shorter, and there is less discomfort after surgery. It’s ideal for patients who desire short hairstyles.
  • Disadvantages: The surgery is time-consuming, particularly for large areas of hair loss, and can be costly. The chance of follicular damage during extraction is increased, which can impact the overall success rate.

3. Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) : It is a non-surgical option. SMP is a cosmetic technique that includes injecting pigment into the scalp to provide the impression of thicker hair or a shaved head.

  • Cosmetic Benefits: SMP can provide instant visual improvement and is a viable alternative for those who are not suitable for hair transplants. It requires no recovery time and can improve the density and appearance of thinning hair.

4. PUVA Light bath therapy : PUVA light bath therapy (Psoralen plus Ultraviolet A) is an approach for autoimmune hair loss called alopecia areata. To speed up hair regeneration and get rid of spot baldness, this treatment includes psoralen, a photosensitizing medication, with ultraviolet A (UVA) light. 

PUVA light bath therapy involves a patient taking psoralen orally prior to taking in a UVA light bath for a particular duration of time. UVA light permeates the skin and reacts with psoralen, which is believed to reduce the immune response, causing hair loss.

Additional Techniques

Aside from classic hair transplant methods, several new approaches can improve growth of hair for alopecia areata. Some of them are as follows:

1. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy : In this method, PRP extracted from the patient’s blood is injected into the scalp to stimulate hair growth and improve hair follicle health. PRP can be used as a supplementation to hair transplantation to improve results.

2. Stem cell therapy : It is emerging as a potential option, involving the use of stem cells for stimulating hair regrowth. These cells may activate inactive hair follicles in alopecia areata patients.

3. Laser Therapy : Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) can stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth. It is a non-invasive treatment that can be paired with other therapies to achieve better results.

Hair transplantation for alopecia areata is a possible alternative for those who want to restore hair in the damaged areas. Hair transplants, such as Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), can be beneficial. Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP) is a non-surgical treatment, as are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, stem cell therapy, and laser therapy.

Finally, a complete medical evaluation should guide treatment decisions, taking into account the condition’s stability and the demands of each particular patient. Managing the emotional and social aspects of alopecia are essential because the condition can have an immense effect on confidence and overall quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can someone with alopecia areata have a hair transplant?

Not everybody with alopecia areata is a good candidate for hair transplants. Candidates must have stable alopecia areata, which means that the size or number of hair loss patches has not changed for a long duration of time. A thorough medical checkup is necessary to evaluate the stability of the illness and rule out current autoimmune activity.

2. What is the rate of success hair transplants for alopecia areata?

The outcome of a hair transplant for alopecia areata depends on several aspects, including the stability of the condition, the surgeon’s expertise, and the technique used. In general, success rates range between 60% and 90%, with higher rates reported in patients with stable alopecia areata and smaller bald patches.

3. What are the risks of hair transplantation for alopecia areata?

Hair transplantation for alopecia areata includes complications such as infection, scarring, and the possibility that transplanted hair will fall out due to autoimmune reactions. Patients may also undergo temporary shock loss, in which their existing hair falls out near the transplant site. Also, there is a possibility of unnatural-looking results, especially if the procedure is performed by an inexperienced surgeon.

ALCS Hair Transplant and Cosmetic Clinic, under the leadership of the internationally recognized Cosmetic Surgeon, Dr. Sunil Arora, specializes in hair restoration and cosmetic procedures. With a focus on quality, ALCS Clinic offers a range of Hair Transplantation and Cosmetic Surgery Services under one roof.

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