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Is an Arthritis Drug the Key to Curing Hair Loss?
by April Maguire
Hair loss is one of the most common ailments on the planet. While male/female pattern baldness remains the most common type of hair loss, there are other reasons that people begin to shed their lovely locks. One of those other causes is alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's own immune system to attack follicles, leading to hair loss.
If a new study is to be believed, however, researchers may have unlocked a surprising way to treat alopecia areata, and it involves using an unconventional and seemingly unrelated drug: one that treats arthritis.
For the majority of alopecia areata sufferers, the disease is endlessly frustrating. It can cause widespread hair loss anywhere on the body, including arms, legs, chest, eyebrows and eyelashes. More frustrating still is the lack of consistency of treatments.
In some cases, patients have success using immunosuppressants like cortisone. Meanwhile, other patients rely on creams and oral medications to alter the immune system and keep it from attacking hair follicles. Still, other patients may find that nothing works, and sometimes a treatment that had been working will suddenly become ineffective.
A New Treatment
According to a new study, patients suffering from alopecia areata experienced a noticeable amount of hair regrowth while taking Xeljanz, a medication that is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although the sample size for the study was relatively small, at 66 participants, researchers report that more than 50% of them experienced new hair growth after taking the drug for three months.
So how can a drug designed to treat arthritis reverse hair loss? According to the researchers, Xeljanz reverses alopecia areata by suppressing the immune system. Or, at the very least, it stops the immune system from attacking and destroying hair follicles. Which means that the almost 150 million people around the globe with alopecia areata may have new, effective treatment option.
While the trial did show that participants only experienced mild side effects from taking Xeljanz, it may not be the surefire cure that alopecia areata sufferers have been waiting for. For starters, long-term use of the drug has been linked to liver damage, internal bleeding and infections. Additionally, Xeljanz is incredibly expensive, with a year's supply costing upwards of $40,000. And since it hasn't been approved to treat hair loss, insurance providers aren't likely to cover it.
Still, these initial findings are promising. With more research, it's possible that this study may lead to an alternative treatment for alopecia areata that is both effective and cost-efficient.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hair loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!