Cicatricial (Scarring) Alopecia

Scarring, or cicatricial alopecia, is an inflammatory condition that destroys hair follicles, causing scarring and permanent hair loss. The Mount Sinai’s Alopecia Center of Excellence can help. Dermatologists have deep experience diagnosing and treating this form of alopecia.

Causes of Cicatricial Alopecia

Generally, cicatricial alopecia is caused by inflammation, which damages the hair follicle. Damage can also stem from a trauma such as a burn or serious infection. The inflammation can involve different types of cells, including lymphocytes, natural killer cells, or several cell types.

Cicatricial alopecia affects both men and women but is rare in children. Researchers do not yet fully understand the causes of the disease. But we believe that inflammation destroys the stem cells and oil glands of the hair follicle, leading to scarring (called fibrosis) and hair loss. It is not thought to be hereditary. The best way to prevent fibrosis and permanent hair loss is to intervene early.

Symptoms of Cicatricial Alopecia

Cicatricial alopecia progresses differently in different people. Hair loss may develop slowly over years with too few symptoms to notice. In some people, it progresses rapidly over months, causing burning and itching. The affected areas could turn red and develop scaling or pustules.

Diagnosis and Treatment

At the Center of Excellence, we offer skilled care for cicatricial alopecia, based on the newest research. Mount Sinai has performed much of the research into this disease. Diagnosing cicatricial alopecia involves a clinical exam and a biopsy, which involves taking and examining a small sample of affected tissue. The biopsy provides information about the type, location, and severity of inflammation.

Treatment depends on the type of cells that are causing the inflammation in your body. Options may include systemic (oral or biologic), topical, or injected anti-inflammatory medications. We uniquely offer new clinical trials for scarring alopecia.