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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Alopecia universalis

*


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Alopecia areata universalis
  • Alopecia universalis congenita
  • AU
  • Generalized atrichia
  • Loss of all hair on the body
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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 is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches on the scalp. Although uncommon, hair loss can be more extensive in some people. This condition can progress to cause total loss of hair on the head (alopecia totalis) or complete loss of hair on the head, face, and body (alopecia universalis). While there is neither a cure for nor drugs approved for treatment, some people find that medications approved for other purposes can help their hair grow back.[1]
Last updated: 5/9/2011

What is alopecia universalis?

Alopecia universalis is an uncommon form of alopecia areata.[2] Alopecia areata is hair loss of unknown cause, characterized by round patches of complete baldness.[3] Alopecia universalis, which presents itself as the loss of hair over the entire scalp and body, is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. While there is neither a cure for alopecia areata nor drugs approved for its treatment, some people find that medications approved for other purposes can help hair grow back, at least temporarily.[1] Since the hair follicles of individuals with alopecia universalis remain alive, hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and even after many years.[2] 
Last updated: 5/8/2012

Will my hair ever grow back?

There is every chance that your hair will regrow, but it may also fall out again. No one can predict when it might regrow or fall out. The course of the disease varies from person to person.[1] 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 even without treatment and even after many years.[2] In some, the initial hair regrowth is white, with a gradual return of the original hair color. In most, the regrown hair is ultimately the same color and texture as the original hair.[1]
Last updated: 10/23/2008

What is the prognosis for individuals with alopecia universalis?

The course of alopecia universalis is highly unpredictable, and the uncertainty of what will happen next is probably the most difficult and frustrating aspect of the disease. You may continue to lose hair, or your hair loss may stop. The hair you have lost may or may not grow back.[1]
Last updated: 11/1/2013

How might alopecia universalis be treated?

While there is neither a cure nor drugs approved for its treatment, some people find that medications approved for other purposes can help hair grow back, at least temporarily. Since alopecia universalis is one of the more extensive types of alopecia areata, the types of treatment are somewhat limited. The most common treatments include cortisone pills and total immunotherapy.[1] 

There are possible side effects of cortisone pills which should be discussed with a physician. Also, regrown hair is likely to fall out when the cortisone pills 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, at least until the condition turns itself off.[4]

While these treatments may promote hair growth, they do not prevent new loss or cure the underlying disease.[1] For those who do not respond to treatment, wigs are an important option.[4]

Other treatments which may be used to promote hair growth include:[1]

Last updated: 5/8/2012

References