Hair transplants are one of the most successful types of hair restoration surgery. However, it’s not suitable for every hair loss patient. While there are fantastic hair transplant success rates for those with androgenetic alopecia (also known as male or female pattern hair loss), hair transplant surgery doesn’t usually work for people with alopecia areata.
In this article, you’ll learn why hair transplants are unsuitable for alopecia areata patients, and what alternative treatments are available.
Alopecia areata affects 1 in 170 people in the UK . It’s an autoimmune condition in which your white blood cells attack your hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out. Alopecia areata creates small round bald patches across the scalp, which can join together to form larger patches.
Alopecia areata can affect anyone, but it’s more prevalent in people aged 25-40, and those of non-white ethnicity . Sometimes it develops into more severe hair loss conditions, such as alopecia totalis (total loss of scalp hair) or alopecia universalis (total loss of body hair).
There are several reasons why hair transplant surgeons don’t recommend hair transplantation for individuals who suffer from this type of autoimmune hair loss condition. Some of the reasons are listed below.
Hair transplants rely on taking healthy hair follicles from one area of the head and moving them to balding areas. In patients with male pattern hair loss, the band across the back and sides of the head is known as the safe donor area. Follicles in this area are unaffected by the hormones that cause androgenetic alopecia, so they can be safely extracted and moved to the thinning areas.
Since alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles indiscriminately, patients have no safe donor area. That means this condition can spread quickly to other areas of your scalp. So it’s possible that the transplanted hair will fall out just as your original ones did, making a hair transplant an ineffective procedure for alopecia areata.
Find out how to stop alopecia areata from spreading across your scalp and body.
Alopecia areata also has a high rate of spontaneous remission. In up to 80% of patients, it clears up by itself without intervention within a year of developing symptoms . That means your hair may regrow by itself without the need for surgery. Performing on these patients can put their scalp and hair through unnecessary trauma.
In very rare instances, some doctors have had success in treating alopecia areata with hair transplants. This is usually only the case if hair loss has remained unchanged for several years (i.e. no further hair growth or hair loss).
In one study, a patient with alopecia universalis regrew all body hair except his eyebrows following a course of non-surgical therapy. Since his eyebrows didn’t respond to therapy in the same way as the rest of his body hair, the hair transplant surgeon gave him an eyebrow transplant. After 2 years, he had 80% brow regrowth .
However, his original eyebrow hair later grew back spontaneously . The transplanted hair follicles then had to be removed. Soon after that, his scalp and eyebrow hair fell out again.
While the hair transplant was a success, this shows why it’s generally unsuitable for alopecia areata patients. It’s a volatile condition that can disappear and return at any time, so hair transplants are likely to be ineffective in the long term.
Since alopecia areata is so erratic, it’s notoriously difficult to treat. However, there are several treatments that have been proven successful, including:
See these Minoxidil before and after photos to see the effectiveness of this treatment for alopecia areata. Then speak to your doctor or a trichologist to create a treatment plan to restore your hair.
Hair transplants are usually used to restore hair loss following male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss. These are the most common types of hair loss, and they affect far more people than alopecia areata. So if you don’t have a confirmed diagnosis yet, book an appointment with a hair loss specialist to find out why your hair is falling out and get the answers to the questions you really want to ask about hair transplants.
At the Wimpole Clinic, we diagnose and treat all kinds of hair loss conditions. We’ll create a personalised treatment plan to restore your hair as quickly as possible. Book a free consultation to find out more.
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