Burden of alopecia areata

A new study has revealed that people suffering with alopecia areata are 38% more likely to be diagnosed with depression. They were also found to be 33% more likely to develop anxiety.

These stark figures highlight the burden the disease has on patients, with more awareness needed to help break the stigma.

Here, we will look at what the latest study found and the link between depression and alopecia areata.

The new study was carried out by Momentum Data and Pfizer. They wanted to determine how alopecia areata affects mental health due to its visibility.

A UK database of 5,435 adults who had been diagnosed with the condition was used during the study. It followed patients for two years after their initial diagnosis of alopecia areata, comparing results against 21,740 people who didn’t have the condition who were the same age and sex.

The results revealed that those with alopecia areata were more likely to have both depression and anxiety. It also found that those with the condition were 82% more likely to be unemployed, and 56% more likely to take days off work than those without it.

The researchers are hoping these findings will help to improve the care of patients with alopecia areata, increasing psychological support.

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair to fall out on both the scalp and the body. It occurs when the immune system attacks its own cells, including those in the hair follicles.

Its severity can vary, with some patients experiencing temporary patches of hair loss, and others permanently losing their entire hair. There are different types of alopecia areata that determine its severity, including alopecia totalis (where the entire hair is lost), and diffuse alopecia areata.

There is no cure for the condition, but there are treatments available to help manage it.

What is the link between alopecia areata and depression?

Although in most cases, hair loss caused by alopecia areata is only temporary, that doesn’t make it any less devastating for patients. Losing your hair can be traumatic at any age, particularly for female patients.

The hair is often seen as an extension of our identity. When patients begin to lose it and develop noticeable patches, it can lead to issues with confidence and self-esteem. Patients may begin avoiding social situations, it can affect their work, and as the study shows, it can trigger depression.

It is understandable many patients experience mental health issues due to the condition. However, they often aren’t presented with any psychological help at all. Healthcare providers need to be aware of the mental health aspects of alopecia areata, and the toll it can take on their patients.

If you are suffering with alopecia areata, or you suspect you may have the condition, call  0207 580 8356 to book a consultation with a dermatologist specialising in hair loss. During a consultation, your hair loss will be assessed before an appropriate treatment plan is created.