What is it?
Cicatricial alopecia is a group of conditions that destroy hair follicles. Hair follicles are the part of the skin where the hair grows. The follicles are replaced with scar tissue. This means the hair will fall out and not grow back.
Who gets it?
Cicatricial alopecia is not contagious. Anyone can get it, but it is not common in children. The condition usually affects only one family member.
What are the types?
There are two forms of cicatricial alopecia:
- In the main form, there are two types of white blood cells that destroy the hair follicle. These cells could either work alone or with each other. This content focuses on this main form.
- In the second form, the hair follicle is destroyed by something such as a burn, infection, radiation, or a tumor.
This content focuses on the primary form of cicatricial alopecia.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms when the hair falls out very fast are itching, pain, and burning. When the hair falls out very slowly there are usually no symptoms.
What causes it?
No one knows what causes cicatricial alopecia. What is known is that redness, heat, pain, or swelling occurs at the upper part of the hair follicle. This destroys a special type of cell and oil glands that are important for hair to grow. Hair falls out and can’t grow back when this happens.
Is there a test?
To see if you have cicatricial alopecia, your doctor may:
- Take samples from where you’ve lost hair.
- Look at your head for signs of redness and infection and to see how much hair you’ve lost.
- Ask you if there are areas on your head where you feel itching, burning, or soreness.
- See if hairs easily pull out.
- Look at the hairs that were pulled out to see if they are growing or not.
How is it treated?
Medication. Medicines could be taken by mouth, applied to the top of the skin, or injected into areas where you lost hair. If taken early in the disease, the medicines might be able to help grow hair before the damage becomes permanent.
Treatment usually lasts a long time. It continues until hair loss slows or stops. Treatment may need to be restarted if the disease starts up again.
Surgery. If you haven’t had hair loss from the disease for 1 to 2 years, surgery can help put hair back on bald areas. The surgeon may take hairs from the back of the head and implant them into the bare areas. Or the surgeon may cut out bald spots and pull the scalp together to cover the gap. The disease may come back even after these surgeries.
Who treats it?
Dermatologists treat cicatricial alopecia. These are doctors trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the skin, hair, and nails.