Alopecia Universalis is an advanced form of Alopecia Areata. In this medical condition, an individual suffers from complete hair loss. This includes hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows, face, and other body parts. Though, with the right treatment this condition can be rectified to a great extent.
What Is Alopecia Universalis?
Alopecia Universalis is characterized by a drastic hair loss on the entire body. An advanced form of Alopecia Areata, it results in hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows, beard, and other body parts. It is important to learn the difference between Alopecia Universalis vs alopecia totalis. In Alopecia areata, bald patches are seen on the scalp. On the other hand, Alopecia totalis refers to a total hair loss on the scalp. The most aggressive condition is Alopecia Universalis, in which hair is completely lost on the entire body.
Ideally, 1 in 4000 people suffers from this condition (European data). Out of all the patients suffering from Alopecia areata, 7-25% can develop Alopecia totalis or universalis.
Symptoms Of Alopecia Universalis
- During the initial stage of Alopecia Universalis, individuals start having hair fall in different parts of the body.
- Besides extensive hair loss on the scalp, hair might also start falling from eyebrows, beard, and other body parts.
- Loss of pubic and nostril hair are some other symptoms of this condition.
- Some patients also complain of itching on the body or scalp.
- Redness on the skin, leading to bald patches could be one of the Alopecia Universalis symptoms as well.
- Thyroid disorder and atopic dermatitis are often linked to this condition.
Since it is an autoimmune disease, Alopecia Universalis symptoms might vary from one individual to another.
What Are The Causes?
While we can’t provide a definite answer to what causes this condition, there have been various assumptions. Since it is believed that it is a form of autoimmune disease, the causes of Alopecia Universalis are linked to our immune system. According to the most widely accepted hypothesis, our immune system starts attacking our hair follicles by considering them harmful for our body.
The common causes of Alopecia Universalis are also connected to genetic disorders. Environmental factors and the immune-related genes can both result in this medical condition. While your hereditary makeup can play a major role in this, there are all kinds of factors (like trauma, infection, biological changes, stress, hormones, etc.) that can trigger the condition.
Can You Reverse This Condition?
Alopecia Universalis is the most aggressive form of hair loss. There is no definite cure that can fix this medical condition instantly. Though, immunotherapy can help us sustain our remaining hair and even fix the disorder. Later, a hair regrowth treatment can be followed to regain the lost hairline.
Alopecia Universalis Treatment
There is no ideal treatment for this condition as of now. Though, in order to achieve long-term Alopecia Universalis recovery, doctors usually combine different treatments and therapies. Some of the popular choices are as follows.
- PRP Treatment– PRP treatment is mostly followed when the Alopecia Universalis symptoms are caught at an early stage. It is mostly combined with dedicated immunotherapy so that when the new hair strands are developed, our body won’t attack them. PRP stands for Platelet-rich Plasma, which is high in protein and various growth factors.
- Hair Transplant– Hair transplant is also followed during the initial stage of this condition. Since grafts with hair strands are taken from the donor area of the patient, there should be enough volume of hair on the scalp. The treatment is only followed at the initial stage of the condition or when the Alopecia Universalis hair regrowth starts. Hair follicles are surgically extracted from a donor area and are sewed back on the bald patches.
- Immunotherapy– Immunotherapy is the closest Alopecia Universalis cure that one can get. This includes all kinds of oral and topical medicines that are prescribed by an experienced doctor. Diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP) and squaric acid dibutylester (SADBE) are some commonly known drugs that are used in immunotherapy. These drugs interact with our immune system and alter the effects of the autoimmune condition to some extent. While there are no FDA-approved drugs for this kind of Alopecia Universalis treatment, they are recorded to have a success rate of around 40%.
- Photodynamic Therapy– While this is a new treatment for this condition, it is gaining immense popularity due to its non-invasive approach. In this, ultraviolet light waves, oxygen, and various photosensitizing agents are used. When the scalp is exposed to the light waves, it activates the hair follicles and regulates the flow of blood. Though, not every skin type yields favourable results for this Alopecia Universalis hair regrowth treatment.
- Oral and topical Drugs– Steroids (oral and topical) are commonly used to attain immediate regulation for this condition. Alopecia Universalis, when caused by hereditary conditions, is mostly treated by using JAK inhibitors. In this, certain drugs are used to inhibit the activity of Janus kinase (a group of enzymes linked to autoimmune diseases). Also, various anti-inflammatory and vasodilator drugs can be used for hair recovery.
What Happens If Alopecia Universalis Goes Untreated?
Alopecia Universalis is not a life-threatening medical condition. The worst case scenario is that it can reach a progressive stage and result in complete hair loss. The lack of body hair can damage your skin from sunburn while the loss of eyelashes might cause some irritation in the eyes. In rare conditions, you might face respiratory issues without any nostril hair. Alopecia Universalis can stop progressing after reaching a certain stage and might be resolved on its own as well.
- Does Stress Cause This Condition?
As you know, a variety of factors can trigger this condition, but its exact cause is still not known. Excessive stress, tension, and the sudden change in the environment could be one of them.
- Is It Hereditary Problem?
Alopecia Universalis can be caused by different immune-related genes. It can be a result of multiple genes, but heredity can play a vital role in its development.
- Who Is At Risk?
Ideally, anyone can suffer from Alopecia Universalis. If someone already has an autoimmune disease or a history of autoimmune diseases in their family, then they are more likely to suffer from this medical condition.
If you think your body is depicting signs of Alopecia Universalis, then you should certainly visit an experienced dermatologist. If caught at an early stage, hair regrowth treatment can help you control this condition from progressing into permanent baldness.