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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

Is there a cure for alopecia universalis?

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 universalis?

Alopecia universalis is an uncommon form of alopecia areata.[1] Alopecia areata is hair loss of unknown cause, characterized by round patches of complete baldness.[2] 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.[3] Since the hair follicles of individuals with alopecia universalis remain alive, hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and even after many years.[1] 
Last updated: 5/8/2012

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.[3] 

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.[3] 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:[3]

Last updated: 5/8/2012

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 the way 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: 5/8/2012