Hair, or the lack of it, can be a source of pride, or it can be a problem. We are born with about 5 million hair follicles, each of which connects hair to our skin and helps facilitate hair growth. When damaged, a follicle may take much longer to create a hair, may produce a thin, damaged hair, or may shut down and not produce a hair at all.
Hair has always been an important element of our appearance. In the late 1800s, men mostly kept their hair short, and simple and parted either in the center or off to one side. Most kept some degree of facial hair, and the more elaborate mustache and "mutton chop" sideburn combinations were proudly worn as a sign of masculinity. By the 1920s, the majority of men wore their hair short on the sides and longer on top, but few people saw their hair because the popular style of the day called for men to wear a hat most of the time. Consequently, their hair was often heavily greased or oiled, carved into the perfect shape, and hardened against the destructive crush of a hat. Those days are long gone, replaced by a much more natural look in both men and women's hairstyles. More recently, men, balding or not, shave their heads and baldness is no longer an undesirable announcement of old age. Quite the contrary, it is now considered high fashion and is often understood as a statement of manly confidence, power, and poise.
Some women have joined the movement, and it is no longer rare to see a beautifully dressed, attractive woman whose most striking accessory is her bald head. Of course, hair loss can also be caused by illness and/or medical treatments, and sometimes a clean, hairless head is preferable to patchy, irregular areas of hair loss that can create an unkempt, undesirable appearance. Regardless of what we do with our hair or why we do it, hair, or the absence of it, is an important part of our self-image.
Involuntary hair loss, partial or complete, on the head, face, or body, can be due to the dermatologic condition known as alopecia, an autoimmune disease that "affects all racial, ethnic, and age groups." There are several types, such as alopecia areata, where the loss of scalp hair occurs in random patches, large and small; alopecia totalis refers to the total loss of hair on the head; and alopeia universalis, rarer than the others is the absence of hair in any place on the body. Olumiant, a drug in use since 2018 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, was approved by the FDA in June of this year to treat adults with patchy hair loss caused by alopecia areatis. In clinical trials, "one in five adults taking Olumiant 2mg a day, and one in three taking 4 mg a day, achieved significant hair regrowth resulting in 80% or more scalp coverage. Eyebrow and eyelash improvements were also achieved for patients taking Olumiant 4 mg a day." Despite these encouraging results, it must be noted that along with side effects like nausea, vomiting, upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, shingles, and cold sores, the potential for serious, major side effects exists. These include, but are not limited to: heart attack, stroke, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, drooping of the mouth, lumps in the neck, underarm, or groin, painful urination, hole in the digestive tract, and pneumonia. Certainly not every patient will have every side effect and some patients will have no side effects, still the list of potentially serious side effects should be considered and discussed with your Board-certified dermatologist or other treating physician.
If you suffer from alopecia areata or any other form of hair loss, please come in and see one of our Board-certified dermatologists at SINY Dermatology. We may design a treatment program to fit your specific situation, your schedule, and your lifestyle. Our office is located at 56850 Main Road, Southold, New York 11971. Please phone us at 800-778-3090 for an appointment, or book your appointment online at SINYderm.com. We are here to help and we're hoping to see you soon!