ORLANDO – There are subtleties and nuances to diagnosing, treating, and monitoring the progress of treatment of hair loss in children. Moreover, hair loss in children can be challenging because it can be caused by a range of conditions, some common and others relatively rare.
Michelle Oboite, MD, shared tips on how to distinguish types of hair loss, when to treat with medications such as topical corticosteroids or Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, and why shared decision-making is important, at the annual ODAC Dermatology, Aesthetic & Surgical Conference.
What these conditions share is that they can negatively affect the quality of life for a child or teenager when the condition leads to anxiety, teasing, or bullying. “It is very isolating to have this condition that everyone in the world can see that you have and judge you for it,” said Oboite, an attending physician in the dermatology section of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
While alopecia areata, tinea capitis, and trichotillomania are more common, other causes of hair loss in children include androgenetic alopecia, primary scarring alopecias, such as central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, and dissecting cellulitis. Others are lichen planopilaris and genetic conditions, including loose anagen syndrome, uncombable hair syndrome, and “something so rare” — it has no acronym — autosomal recessive hypotrichosis with recurrent skin vesicles, Oboite said.
Alopecia areata can differ from child to child and can appear in different stages: A localized patch stage, a diffuse patchy stage, or alopecia universalis. In this last stage, the child has already lost most or all the hair on the scalp and eyebrows, as well as the eyelashes.
The decision to treat or not to treat, particularly in younger children, should be on the basis of shared decision-making between a healthcare provider and caregiver, said Oboite, who is also an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Some younger children may not experience any negative impact from the condition, so waiting until they are older is an option.
Also, consider the impact of treatment on a child. Some therapies require frequent blood draws for monitoring, and some topical therapies that are applied multiple times a day “can be very overwhelming” for young children, Oboite said.
Most children with alopecia areata are healthy and do not need extensive screening laboratory testing. However, one exception is if thyroid dysfunction, commonly associated with alopecia areata, is suspected.
For alopecia areata, Oboite recommends starting with topical therapies, either topical corticosteroids (as first line) or topical JAK inhibitors (either topical ruxolitinib or compounded topical tofacitinib, both off-label for this indication).
Topical corticosteroids can be effective, but “you want to be thoughtful of the strength you’re using, the application frequency, and then the total amount of surface area that you’re treating,” Oboite said. Too potent or too much of a topical corticosteroid increases the risk for atrophy and systemic absorption, respectively. To reduce the risk, she reserves the use of ultrahigh-potency topical corticosteroids, such as clobetasol, for children ages 10 years or older. For children younger than 10 years, she recommends using mid-high-potency topical corticosteroids instead.
She recommends once-a-day application around bedtime 5 days a week, generally Monday through Friday to make it easier to remember.
“For children who have over 50% of the scalp involved, I do consider systemic therapy,” Oboite said. This can include oral steroids such as dexamethasone, prednisone, or prednisolone. For children with recalcitrant disease, she is more likely to use the oral JAK inhibitor ritlecitinib because it was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating severe alopecia areata in children 12 years and older and in adults.
Another strategy Oboite uses is to add low-dose oral minoxidil as an adjuvant to other systemic therapy. “I find that it helps with faster hair regrowth,” she said.
Oral treatment is indicated for tinea capitis. “Topicals just don’t really clear this,” Oboite said. Also, talk to patients and families about preventing reinfection with the dermatophyte that causes this condition. “Make sure we’re cleaning hats, combs, brushes, and pillowcases. That is really important.”
Some patients can develop a widespread rash while on treatment. But in most cases, it’s not an adverse reaction to the medication but rather an indication that the body’s response is revving up, she noted.
Griseofulvin 20 mg/kg/d is one treatment option. Another is terbinafine (using weight-based dosing). A tip with terbinafine is that because the tablet needs to be crushed for a young child, “you can put it in anything, besides applesauce or yogurt with fruit on the bottom, which can be acidic and reduce the effectiveness of the medication,” Oboite said.
For cases of severe, inflammatory tinea capitis such as a kerion, “I will say you have to hold the hands of these patients, the journey can be long,” she added.
Trichotillomania occurs when someone cannot stop pulling their own hair, and in the early phases, it can be confused with alopecia areata. A thorough history and examination of the patient can help distinguish the two conditions. Sometimes a child or teen has a history of anxiety-related behaviors like nail biting that points to trichotillomania. Another tip is to use a dermatoscope to help distinguish hair loss conditions because it avoids having to do as many biopsies in children.
Redirection therapy can work for younger children, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help older children with trichotillomania. In response to a question during the Q&A period, Oboite said psychiatrists or psychologists can perform CBT. If it takes time to get an appointment, there are some CBT apps that can help in the meantime, she said.
“One thing really important is to not blame the child,” Oboite said. “Most children don’t even know that they’re doing this. This is often not a behavior that is being done on purpose.”
Rarely, children and teenagers can also present with androgenetic alopecia, which Oboite has successfully treated with topical minoxidil, applied once a day before increasing to twice a day if tolerated. “I will tell them that when they pick it up, it will say ‘you should not use in children.’ But it actually can be used in children safely.”
Low-dose oral minoxidil is another option. Both treatments require a commitment by patients and parents because they are “taking this for a long time.”
Loose Anagen and Uncombable Hair Syndromes
A rare genetic form of hair loss is called loose anagen syndrome. Children with this disorder will have thin hair that is easily pulled out without a lot of force. Their hair appears to typically only grow to a certain length (such as to the nape of the neck) and then stops.
Another genetic hair loss condition is uncombable hair syndrome. It can cause hair to grow out of the scalp in all directions, and as the name suggests, it is almost impossible to comb or brush down. Along with loose anagen syndrome, uncombable hair syndrome tends to improve as the child gets older. “The key point here is telling parents that it can get better with time,” Oboite said.
A Condition With No Well-Known Acronym
She described a child she treated who had hair that never grew and was easily broken. The patient’s skin was prone to bruising, and her fingernails would easily fall off after trauma; her dentist noted that she had no buds for adult teeth on x-rays. These different presentations are important because hair, teeth, and nails all come from the same ectoderm germ line in embryo development, Oboite said.
Exome sequencing revealed the girl had a very rare diagnosis called autosomal recessive hypotrichosis with recurrent skin vesicles. “So, it is really important to recognize that children who are presenting with hair issues can have a genetic, underlying condition,” she said. Examining the skin, nails, and teeth, in addition to the hair, can be clues to these very rare diagnoses.
Some of these hair loss conditions in children can be challenging to diagnose and manage, Oboite said. “So don’t be afraid to ask for help on complex or rare cases.” Pediatric dermatologists “are always happy to help you. Hair loss is daunting, and hair loss in children can be even more daunting,” but the rewards of accurate diagnosis and successful treatment can be great, she said.
Oboite reported no relevant financial relationships.
Damian McNamara is a staff journalist based in Miami. He covers a wide range of medical specialties, including infectious diseases, gastroenterology, and critical care. Follow Damian on X: @MedReporter.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/hair-loss-children-how-spot-and-treat-different-causes-2024a10001kq?src=rss
Publish date : 2024-01-22 07:44:29
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