Alopecia areata is a relatively common autoimmune disease. Although the nails can be involved, the major symptom is hair loss. It can be in small amounts leading to bald patches, or larger volumes, all the way up to complete hair loss including eyebrows and eyelashes. It is possible for the condition to resolve itself, but this is not the case for everyone, and any number of triggers could lead to a relapse. Traditionally, there are medications and treatments available to help restore some growth but results are variable and based on individual situations1.
Laser therapy is a newer treatment option that has been gaining in popularity. It has been cleared (determined to be safe) for use in the treatment of similar conditions such as pattern hair loss/baldness in both men and women, and there have been some positive clinical trial results2–6. Additionally, there has been some initial testing for its application in alopecia areata7,8 however long-term data is not yet available.
Light from lasers is believed to stimulate dormant hair follicles as well as increase blood flow, growth factors and useable energy to encourage the growth phase of the hair cycle9. The end result is a reduction in further hair loss and an increase in hair regrowth.
A few of the great benefits that make laser therapy a popular choice are that it is non-invasive and does not require the use of medication. Some people may experience some red skin or itchiness but laser therapy is generally considered to be free of side effects. Moreover, lasers are available for use in combs, hoods and helmets. They require as little as 20 minutes per use but be prepared for multiple sessions a week over a six month period.
Overall, if you are interested in a drug-free treatment, avoiding side effects or other treatment methods have been unsuccessful, talk to your doctor or dermatologist to assess your individual situation.
Article by: Dr. J.L. Carviel, PhD, Mediprobe Research Inc.
- Delamere FM, Sladden MM, Dobbins HM, Leonardi-Bee J. Interventions for alopecia areata. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(2):CD004413.
- Satino JL, Markou M. Hair Regrowth and Increased Hair Tensile Strength Using the HairMax LaserComb for Low-Level Laser Therapy. Int J Cosmet Surg Aesthetic Dermatol. 2003 Aug;5(2):113–7.
- Leavitt M, Perez-Meza D, Rao NA, Barusco M, Kaufman KD, Ziering C. Effects of finasteride (1 mg) on hair transplant. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al. 2005 Oct;31(10):1268–76, discussion 1276.
- Lanzafame RJ. The Growth of Human Scalp Hair Mediated by Visible Red Light Laser and LED Sources in Males [Internet]. 2011. Available from: http://www.igrowlaser.com/themes/shared/resources/pdf/iGrow_Clinical_Trial_Abstract.pdf
- Kim W-S, Lee HI, Lee JW, Lim YY, Lee SJ, Kim BJ, et al. Fractional photothermolysis laser treatment of male pattern hair loss. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al. 2011 Jan;37(1):41–51.
- Lee G-Y. The effect of a 1550 nm fractional erbium–glass laser in female pattern hair loss. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 25(12):1450–4.
- McMichael AJ. Excimer laser: a module of the alopecia areata common protocol. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc Soc Investig Dermatol Inc Eur Soc Dermatol Res. 2013 Dec;16(1):S77–9.
- Mutairi N Al-. 308-nm excimer laser for the treatment of alopecia areata in children. Pediatr Dermatol. 2009 Oct;26(5):547–50.
- Oron U, Ilic S, De Taboada L, Streeter J. Ga-As (808 nm) laser irradiation enhances ATP production in human neuronal cells in culture. Photomed Laser Surg. 2007 Jun;25(3):180–2.