Role of Steroids in Alopecia Treatment


Alopecia areata refers to a skin disorder that leads to loss of hair in patches on the scalp. In most cases, the bald patches will suddenly appear and affect an area. At times, Alopecia areata can be more severe on some people and last much longer, causing total loss of body hair or total baldness. Alopecia is capable of affecting areas with hair such as the face, which can be the facial hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, and the scalp. On-body hair, it can affect the underarms, around the genitals, arms, and legs. One of the main causes of hair loss in humans is the immune system targeting hair follicles.

Currently, there is no alopecia areata cure although there are several treatment forms which doctors do suggest to help in regrowth of hair faster. One of the most common alopecia areata treatment forms is the use of corticosteroids.

Alopecia Treatment

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids, which also known as steroids, refer to anti-inflammatory medicine that helps in treating a wide range of conditions.  Steroids are human-made hormone version that comes from the adrenal glands, which are the two glands sitting on top of the kidneys.

Corticosteroids are available in:

  • Inhalers like nasal sprays or mouth.
  • Injections in joints, blood vessels or muscles.
  • Tablets which are the oral steroids.
  • Gels, lotions or creams which are topical steroids.

How Steroids Work in Alopecia Areata Treatment

Alopecia Areata Treatment

Steroids function by reducing the immune system activity and decreasing inflammation. Inflammation refers to the process where the white blood cells, together with the chemicals, work together to help in protecting the body against foreign substances and infection like viruses and bacteria.

By reducing chemical production that causes inflammation, the rate of tissue damage is kept low. However, this may not work well for other diseases as it may interfere with the defense system.  In such a situation, the body may not be able to defend itself from inflammation leading to damages. Some of the inflammation signs include swelling, warmth, redness, and pain.

Whenever inflammation threatens to destroy essential body organs, steroids can help save the organs and at times can be life-saving. For instance, the use of steroids will help in preventing worsening of inflammation of the kidney that can easily lead to failure of the kidney in people suffering from vasculitis or lupus.   For such patients, the use of steroids will help in eliminating the need for transplantation or kidney dialysis.

Steroids in low doses are capable of providing significant relief from stiffness and pain of people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Use of steroid dose in the short term will help an individual recover from a severe flare-up of alopecia areata.  Using steroid injections will aim at preventing the immune system from attacking follicles of the hair. They then trigger regrowth of hair in patients suffering from alopecia.  These treatment types tend to work best in people who have smaller hair loss patches.

The cortisol does play a crucial role in controlling water and salt balance in the body together with fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism regulation.  The pituitary gland found at the base of the brain will release an adrenocorticotropic hormone that will be responsible for stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol when there is stress on the body.

However, extra cortisol will make it possible for the body to be in a position of coming up with stressful situations like surgery, infection, emotional issues, and trauma. The immediately stressful situation comes to an end; the production of the adrenal hormone will revert to normal.  Adrenal glands do produce up to 20 milligrams of cortisol in a day although they are in a position of producing five times that much.

There are steroids of different types such as betamethasone butyrate and hydrocortisone. They have varying strengths which are directly proportional to the amount of steroid each contains. In most cases, the prescription of steroids treatment happens when using steroid injections.

Administration of Steroids

There are several forms of steroid medication which vary according to how easily they can dissolve or the duration they do take in the human body.

It is possible to administer steroids locally to the exact place where there is a problem or systematically meaning to the entire body or system. Eye drops, skin creams, ear drops are some of the local steroid treatment examples.

The systemic steroid treatment comprises of medicine put directly to the vein, oral medicine or the intramuscular medicine.  The systemic steroids do circulate throughout the bloodstream to different sites of the body.  To help in reducing the side effects, most doctors prescribe the local steroid treatments instead of the systemic steroids

It is possible to use steroids in treating different conditions where the defense system of the body doesn’t work well-causing tissue damage. For certain diseases like Alopecia areata, steroids can be the main therapy.

It is also possible to use steroids in the treatment of other rheumatologic inflammatory conditions like:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Myositis
  • Systemic vasculitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

How Doctors Decide Use of Steroids is Right for Alopecia areata Treatment

The prescription of steroids differs depending on your condition. First, your doctor will consider your physical activity, age, together with other types of medicines you are using. The doctor will also ensure that you are aware of the advantages and the risks before you start using steroids. However, potential benefits and risks do vary.


Different people do have mixed experienced when using steroid treatment. There are places the therapy worked well like in people who managed to have their eyebrows regrow after steroid injections. In other instances, the steroid treatment did work well, and hair grew again but later fell out when treatment stops.

While steroids such as Testosterone-Enanthate help in treatment, they may not offer a permanent solution. But, there is still room for scientific studies that will show the effectiveness of steroids in dealing with alopecia. For this reason, it is advisable that you seek advice from an expert or someone with experience before committing yourself.