Derm Topics

What Dermatologists Should Know About Approaching Alopecia Patients

Next Steps in Derm, in partnership with Skin of Color Update, interviewed dermatologist Dr. Victoria Barbosa, associate professor at University of Chicago Medicine. Watch as Dr. Barbosa shares why it may be challenging for an alopecia patient to visit a dermatologist and why it’s important to address the psychological burden of hair loss. Hear how considering a broad differential is essential to making an accurate diagnosis. Plus find out why it’s especially important to involve the patient when creating an alopecia treatment plan.


Further Reading

If you want to read more about approaching patients with alopecia, check out the following articles published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology:

Alopecia Areata: The Clinician and Patient Voice


Alopecia areata (AA), an autoimmune disorder of hair follicles, results in varying degrees of scalp, facial, and body hair loss. In addition, it is associated with profound psychosocial and quality-of-life impairments, which can lead to anxiety and depression. The clinical course is unpredictable, with spontaneous remissions and relapses. There is no cure, and current treatments are limited by their efficacy, safety, and high relapse rates after discontinuation. This article reviews clinician and patient perspectives on AA, based on clinician and physician surveys, and discusses the unmet needs and gaps in care.

Minimizing Bias in Alopecia Diagnosis in Skin of Color Patients


Alopecia is one of the most common dermatologic conditions affecting black patients, with a significantly negative impact on quality of life.1,2 Timely and accurate diagnosis is therefore critical in order to reverse or halt progression of disease.3 Unfortunately, lack of representation of skin of color (SOC) patients in the current literature may contribute to misdiagnosis as providers may be unfamiliar with the clinical spectrum of alopecia presenting in darker scalps.4 Some scarring alopecia subtypes such as Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) are more prevalent in certain racial groups. However, focusing solely on patient demographics and gross clinical findings may obscure accurate diagnoses. To distinguish alopecia findings in Black patients, a dedicated approach using a combination of clinical exam findings and patient history, along with trichoscopy and biopsy, is essential to prevent misdiagnosis and improve clinical and diagnostic outcomes. We present three cases of alopecia in patients of color which the initial suspected clinical diagnosis did not correspond with trichoscopic and biopsy results. We challenge clinicians to reexamine their biases and fully evaluate patients of color with alopecia. An examination should include a thorough history, clinical examination, trichoscopy, and potentially a biopsy, particularly when findings do not correlate. Our cases highlight the challenges and disparities that exist in diagnosis of alopecia in Black patients. We emphasize the need for continued research regarding alopecia in skin of color and the importance of a complete workup for alopecia to improve diagnostic outcomes.

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