A new study launched by our clinicians is seeking to understand the experience of people with alopecia areata.

Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss, which includes temporary or permanent hair loss and can be caused by a range of factors. Alopecia areata is a type of alopecia caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicle. This leads to hair loss which may be patchy or widespread, affecting the entire scalp or the whole body.

The causes of alopecia areata are still unknown, though there is a strong link between alopecia areata and psychological and emotional stress. This has not been studied in depth and neither has the impact of the illness on patients’ lives.

Hair loss can have significant emotional impact and affect patients’ wellbeing. In order to understand these impacts, the Alopecia+me study is launching a survey for people who have been diagnosed with alopecia areata.

The survey includes questions about the impact of alopecia areata on patients’ quality of life, psychological status, stigma and socio-economic status. The data will be anonymised to take out any information that might identify patients. The results will then be analysed to understand common themes and help clinicians to minimise the impact of the condition.

The project is led by Dr Christos Tziotzios, Consultant Dermatologist and Senior Lecturer at St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s and St Thomas’. He said: “We can only improve patient quality of life if we first understand it and can only end stigma if we first study it. There is no one better to ask about what alopecia means than the sufferer and our Alopecia+me study does exactly that.”

The study is funded by an independent research grant to Dr Tziotzios by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.