Alopecia or hair loss is a devastating condition that can affect any age. There are many types of alopecia:

  • Alopecia areata
  • Androgenetic alopecia
  • Frontal fibrosing alopecia
  • Telogen effluvium
  • Lichen planus pilaris

Treatment of alopecia can be challenging as there is often no cure. There are however some treatments that can stop further hair loss or encourage hair to regrow. Treatments depend on the type of hair loss you have.

Alopecia areata (AA)

What causes AA?

AA is an autoimmune disease meaning it is caused by one’s own immune system. Autoimmune diseases are common encompassing many medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, thyroid disease, lupus etc. AA is seen most commonly in children and young adults but can affect any age. The cause of AA is not fully understood but is seen in association with other autoimmune conditions. The body’s immune cells usually do not interact with the hair follicle cells however in AA this is not the case.

Is it to do with my diet?

There is no proven link with diet and AA. Some studies suggest taking multi vitamins especially zinc and selenium may help. Dr Nelson will generally check basic blood tests including zinc and iron levels. If you have a normal healthy diet it is unlikely there is an imbalance in these trace elements but supplementation with over the counter products should not cause any harm.

What does AA look like?

It can be very mild ranging from just a few coin shape areas of hair loss to complete hair loss of the entire scalp (alopecia totalis) or even the entire body (alopecia universalis).

What treatments are there for AA?

Topical and intradermal steroid injections can be very effective in alopecia areata. Depending on the extent of hair loss topical treatments can be started by your GP however some GPs are hesitant to prescribe very strong topical steroid creams. Steroid injections can also be very effective. Injection of steroid directly into the area of hair loss every month can help speed up hair regrowth. Repeated injections into the same sight can lead to skin dimpling and redness as a side effect of the steroid. This is however often only mild and can improve with time.

Dr Nelson will first need to establish the type of alopecia you have before recommending the best treatment.


Androgenetic alopecia (AGA)

A genetically determined sensitivity of the scalp hair follicles to adult levels of androgens.

Hairs become miniaturised in a symmetrical pattern.

Antiandrogen medications can sometimes be useful in treating hair lost in this way.

Both men and women can be affected with 80% of Caucasian men and 50% of women showing signs of AGA by 70 years of age.

Minoxidil is very helpful in androgenetic alopecia in both men and women. This can be purchased without a prescription. Treatment is twice daily and needs to be maintained for up to 6 months to notice any improvement. Any improvement is lost if treatment is discontinued.


For Plymouth please call Shannon on 01752 437026 | For The Duchy, Truro please call Alex on 01872226101 or email: enquiries@tobynelsondermatology.com. A referral from your GP is preferred.