Author(s): Whiting DA, Whiting DA
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Abstract BACKGROUND: A peribulbar lymphocytic infiltrate is the expected histologic feature of alopecia areata, but it is absent in many scalp biopsy specimens. Other diagnostic criteria are needed. OBJECTIVE: To establish the histologic features of alopecia areata in scalp biopsy specimens taken from different types of alopecia areata, using follicular counts to relate biopsy findings to stages of the disease. METHODS: Fifty consecutive new patients with alopecia areata were studied. Four-millimeter punch biopsy specimens were taken from the scalp in areas of recent, active hair loss; old, inactive hair loss; or recent hair regrowth. Specimens were sectioned horizontally. Terminal and vellus-like hairs were counted. Inflammation and fibrosis around lower and upper follicles were rated. RESULTS: The histopathologic features of alopecia areata were not significantly affected by the sex, age, and race of the patient or by the type, percentage of hair loss, total duration, or regression of alopecia areata. The major factor affecting the histopathologic features was the duration of the current episode of alopecia areata. In the acute stage, bulbar lymphocytes surrounded terminal hairs in early episodes and miniaturized hairs in repeated episodes. In the subacute stage, decreased anagen and increased catagen and telogen hairs were characteristic. In the chronic stage, decreased terminal and increased miniaturized hairs were found, with variable inflammation. During recovery, increasing numbers of terminal anagen hairs from regrowth of miniaturized hairs and a lack of inflammation were noted. CONCLUSIONS: The histopathologic features of alopecia areata depend on the stage of the current episode. Alopecia areata should be suspected when high percentages of telogen hairs or miniaturized hairs are present, even in the absence of a peribulbar lymphocytic infiltrate.
This article was published in Arch Dermatol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research