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Inflammation of the scalp is triggered by infection, irritation, or an allergic reaction that occurs on the skin. Inflammation is the body’s way of correcting problems.
According to Livingstrong “[inflamed scalp] tends to localize to certain parts of the scalp, but it may cause widespread breakouts. Typically, an inflamed scalp forms with other signs and symptoms such as dry skin, scaling, rashes and itchiness. A health care provider can assist in diagnosing and treating individual causes of an inflamed scalp.”
If inflammation exists in the skin for too long, it can cause an autoimmune response and by mistake the immune system attacks healthy cells mistaking them as harmful. This could result in scarring alopecia like folliculitis decalvans or non-scarring alopecias like alopecia aerate.
What is folliculitis decalvans?
Folliculitis decalvans is a scarring type of hair loss that occurs when inflammation is present within the hair follicle. This type of hair loss leads to destroyed follicles, and the hair that has fallen out will not grow back because the openings to the hair follicles close permanently. The scalp may look red and feel swollen.
“There are usually round or oval patches of hair loss in which there are pustules surrounding the hair follicles (perifollicular pustules)" according to Dermnetnz. Characteristically, several or many hairs can be seen coming out of a single follicle, so the scalp looks ‘tufted’ like a toothbrush. Eventually the hairs are shed as the follicle is completely destroyed and leaves behind a scar.
Is there a treatment you can use to stop folliculitis decalvans?
Dermnetnz, makes a point to say that “there is no permanent cure for the condition but it can be controlled to some degree by using medications." These medications have to be prescribed by a doctor. A trichologist may recommend L-tyrosine, an amino acid you can take orally that helps reverse the auto-immune response in the skin.
What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss where follicles are present. The hair loss is shaped like circular or oval patches and can form anywhere on the body. The most common areas on the body affected by this type of hair loss are the scalp and beard. The hair loss falls sporadically on the scalp.
There are two other types of alopecia areata. When the alopecia progresses to total hair loss of the scalp, it is called alopecia totalis. Loss of all body hair is called alopecia universalis. Alopecia areata may be triggered by an autoimmune response in the skin.
What is an autoimmune response in the skin?
An autoimmune response takes place when a group of white blood cells attack other healthy cells of the skin or hair follicle. It is the responsibility of white blood cells to destroy infectious and abnormal cells.
“It is histologically characterized by T lymphocytes around the hair follicles. These CD8(+)NK group 2D-positive (NKG2D(+)) T cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that reject the hair,” according to dermnetnz.org
The cause of this autoimmune response around the follicle is unknown but genetics, stress, trauma to the head, viral and bacterial infections, and vaccinations may be a trigger.
Treatment for alopecia areata
Alopecia areata corrects itself, but the hair may take weeks or even years to grow back. This type of hair loss, depending on how severe, needs to be treated by a doctor.
Have you ever experienced an inflammatory condition of the scalp? What method of treatment worked best for you?
Share your experiences in the comments below.