What is cicatricial alopecia?
It refers to a group of serious but rare conditions which result in the scarring and permanent destruction of hair follicles, and hair loss. It’s also known as scarring alopecia. It can arise as a result of disease to the hair follicles (primary cicatricial alopecia). Examples of the diseases which can result in primary cicatricial alopecia include folliculitis decalvans, tufted folliculitis, lichen planopilaris and frontal fibrosing alopecia. Cicatrical alopecia can also be the result of an external process (secondary cicatricial alopecia) caused by damage to the follicles from outside. It can affect men and women, It’s not contagious.
What causes it?
The causes of primary cicatricial alopecia are not really known.
But inflammation is known to affect the stem cells of the hair follicle, which in turn can destroy and disable re-growth of the hair follicle.
Causes of secondary cicatricial alopecia include burns, infection, radiation or a cancerous tumour.
Symptoms and signs
In some cases, there may be little or no indication of the problem for some time, since the inflammation to the follicle takes place beneath the surface of the scalp.
In other case, patients with cicatricial or scarring alopecia may experience immediate itching, soreness, burning, scaling and discharge from the site of the problem, as well as hair loss.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the scarring alopecia and will be carried out under the guidance of a dermatologist.
Generally the main treatment will be to use anti-inflammatory medicines to address the inflammation.
In some cases, minoxidil might be used to stimulate the growth of weak hairs around the site of the infection.
Why see a trichologist?
A trichologist will examine the scalp and assist in identifying the problem. They may be able to advise on what can be done, but usually they will advise prompt referral to a physician or dermatologist for further investigation and diagnosis.
The Cictaricial Alopecia Research Foundation provides information on the condition to patients and health professionals: