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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Alopecia universalis


Other Names for this Disease

  • Alopecia areata universalis
  • AU
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I was born with alopecia universalis. I have recently had regrowth of thin sparse hairs. What can I expect from this condition? Will my hair ever grow back fully and can the condition be cured?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What are the signs and symptoms of alopecia universalis?

Alopecia universalis (AU) is characterized by the complete loss of hair on both the scalp and body. Most people with AU do not have other signs and symptoms, but some may experience a burning sensation or itching on affected areas. In some cases, AU can be associated with other conditions such as atopic dermatitis, thyroid disorders, and/or nail changes (such as pitting).[1] Anxiety, personality disorders, depression, and paranoid disorders are more common in people with different forms of alopecia areata.[2]
Last updated: 11/22/2014

What is the long-term outlook for people with alopecia universalis?

The course of alopecia universalis is highly unpredictable, and this uncertainty is one of the most difficult and frustrating aspect of the disease. Affected people may continue to lose hair, or hair loss may stop. Hair that has already been lost may or may not grow back.[3]
Last updated: 11/23/2013

Can hair lost from alopecia universalis grow back?

In some cases, hair lost as a result of alopecia universalis will regrow, but it may also fall out again. The course of the disease varies from person to person.[3] In all forms of alopecia areata, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. Hair regrowth may occur without treatment, even after many years.[4] In some, the initial hair regrowth is white, with a gradual return of the original hair color. The regrown hair is ultimately the same color and texture as the original hair in most cases.[3]
Last updated: 11/23/2014

How might alopecia universalis be treated?

Although these is no therapy approved for the treatment of alopecia universalis, some people find that medications approved for other purposes may help hair grow back, at least temporarily. Since alopecia universalis is one of the more severe types of alopecia areata, treatment options are somewhat limited. The most common treatments include corticosteriods and topical (applied to to skin) immunotherapy.[3]

There are possible side effects of corticosteriods which should be discussed with a physician. Also, regrown hair is likely to fall out when the corticosteriods are stopped. About 40% of people treated with topical immunotherapy will regrow scalp hair after about six months of treatment. Those who do successfully regrow scalp hair need to continue the treatment to maintain the hair regrowth.[5]

While these treatments may promote hair growth, they do not prevent new loss or cure the underlying disease.[3] For those who do not respond to treatment, wigs are an option.[5]
Last updated: 11/23/2014

Are researchers working towards finding a cure for alopecia universalis?

Although a cure is not imminent, researchers are making headway toward a better understanding of the disease. This increased understanding will likely lead to better treatments for the different types of alopecia areata and eventually a way to prevent or even cure it.[3]

To learn more about current research efforts, click here.
Last updated: 11/23/2014

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Alopecia areata universalis
  • AU
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.