Does Light Therapy Work for Alopecia Areata?

Keywords: #Alopecia Areata,

July 4, 2024 782 Views

A man worried about alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss on the scalp and sometimes other parts of the body. It affects around 2% of people at some point in their lives. While not life-threatening, alopecia areata can cause significant psychological distress and impact a person’s quality of life. The good news is that for many people, alopecia areata is temporary with a chance of full recovery. One option that has shown promise is light therapy. But does light therapy work for alopecia areata?

About Alopecia Areata

What Causes Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes other areas of the body. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair falling out often in patches. While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to be triggered by genetic, environmental, and immune factors.

Some key facts about alopecia areata:

  • It can occur in people of all ages, but often first appears in children and young adults.
  • Around 2% of people will experience alopecia areata at some point in their lives.
  • Hair loss is usually localized at first but can spread to become more widespread.
  • While not physically painful, alopecia areata can cause significant psychological and emotional distress.
  • Spontaneous regrowth of hair occurs in around half of cases, but relapses are common.
  • There is no known cure, but various treatments aim to encourage hair regrowth.

Light therapy has emerged as one of the most promising alopecia areata treatments to stimulate hair regrowth and stop further hair loss. But how does light therapy treat alopecia areata?

How Does Light Therapy Work?

How light therapy works for alopecia areata?

First things first, what causes alopecia anyway? Hair loss happens when the growth cycles of the follicles on your head get disrupted. Normally, each follicle goes through three phases: anagen (active growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). In alopecia, a higher number of follicles get stuck in the resting phase, which is why you start losing more hair than you grow back. Light therapy aims to wake those lazy, sleeping follicles back up. But how does it do this exactly?

It comes down to light’s ability to create specific biological changes at the cellular level:

Increasing ATP

Red light is thought to stimulate the mitochondria in cells, helping them produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which provides energy. This boosts metabolism and circulation in the area being treated. More blood flowing to those shrunken follicles provides the nutrients they need to kickstart growth again.

Stimulates Circulation

The light expands blood vessels (vasodilation) and boosts blood flow to the scalp. Improved circulation delivers more oxygen, nutrients, and growth factors to hair follicles. Reviving your failing follicles.

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation of the hair follicles is often a factor in diseases like alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes patchy hair loss. Light therapy has anti-inflammatory effects that help calm the autoimmune response attacking hair follicles. This reduces immune-system interference so hair can grow.

Briefly then, light treatment exploits varied light qualities to address alopecia areata’s principal roots – disturbed immunity, swelling, disrupted regrowth patterns – and foster a milieu permitting new growth.

Does Light Therapy Work for Alopecia Areata?

red light therapy used on person scalp

With an understanding of the mechanisms, what does the evidence say about light therapy’s real-world efficacy for alopecia areata? Numerous clinical studies have been conducted, primarily using low-level laser therapy (LLLT). The results are overwhelmingly positive:

  • A trial of 15 people with patchy hair loss reported that certain areas were treated with infrared radiation for 5 months, compared with others as a control. 46.7% of the treated area showed hair regrowth.[1]
  • Another study in an experimental cultured tissue model found that low-intensity 650 nm red light promoted the proliferation of human hair follicles and concluded that 650 nm red light is the most effective and practical wavelength for stimulating hair growth through LLLT treatment.[2]

While more research is still needed, current evidence convincingly shows light therapy stimulates significant hair regrowth for the majority of alopecia areata patients.

Any Risks or Side Effects?

When used correctly, light therapy is generally safe with minimal risks:

  • LEDs and lasers used within recommended guidelines have few side effects. Some people may experience mild scalp irritation or redness.
  • Prolonged or excessive laser light can burn the skin. Technicians should follow responsible dosing guidelines.
  • Eye damage can occur if lasers or LEDs are shined into the eyes. Wear protective goggles.

Of course, consult your dermatologist about your medical history and any drug interactions before starting light therapy for alopecia or other conditions. While relatively low risk, some precautions apply.

Choosing Right Light Therapy Device

When considering light therapy for alopecia areata, selecting is crucial for optimal results and safety.

Factors to Consider:

  • Wavelengths: Look for devices that emit red light (630-660nm) and/or near-infrared light (808-880nm), as these wavelengths have shown promise for hair regrowth.
  • Power Density: Choose a device with adequate power output (measured in mW/cm²) to ensure sufficient energy reaches hair follicles.
  • Treatment Area: Select a device with a treatment area appropriate for the size and location of your hair loss.
  • Safety Features: Ensure the device has built-in safety features like timers and eye protection.
  • FDA Clearance: Opt for devices with FDA clearance for treating hair loss, indicating that they have met safety and efficacy standards.

RedDot LED is backed by decades of light therapy device manufacturing experience and many loyal customers.

Light treatment, especially LLLT, provides a risk-free, non-intrusive yet likely helpful option for addressing alopecia areata and restoring growth. Though study continues, present findings indicate light may energize follicles, further growth, and better lives coping with this ailment.

TIPS:Consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to determine if light therapy is right for you.

Reference:

[1]Masashi Yamazaki, Yuko Miura, Ryoji Tsuboi, Hideoki Ogawa, et al. Linear polarized infrared irradiation using Super Lizer is an effective treatment for multiple-type alopecia areata. Int J Dermatol. 2003 Sep;42(9):738-40.
[2]Kai Yang, Yulong Tang, Yanyun Ma, et al. Hair Growth Promoting Effects of 650 nm Red Light Stimulation on Human Hair Follicles and Study of Its Mechanisms via RNA Sequencing Transcriptome Analysis. Ann Dermatol. 2021 Dec; 33(6): 553– 561.

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