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Derm News: 2007.7(1)

A case series of alopecia areata in children: impact of personal and family history of stress and autoimmunity

Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, March 2007;21(3):356-359
T Kakourou, K Karachristou, G Chrousos


The epidemiology of alopecia areata (AA) is well documented in adults but has not been studied adequately in children.


To evaluate the clinical and epidemiological profile of AA in children and assess the significance of thyroid screening.


One hundred and fifty-seven children (83 boys, 74 girls, aged 1-16 years) who visited our clinic with a first episode of AA from 1996 to 2000 were retrospectively studied. One hundred children served as clinical controls.


The age of peak incidence of AA was 0-5 years. The youngest child was 1 year old. In the majority of the cases (131/157, 83.4%) the disease was mild or moderate (less than 50% hair loss). In 15 patients (9.5%), AA was preceded by a stressful event. Five patients had a personal history of autoimmune disease (3.2 vs. 5% of the controls, (P = not significant [NS]) while 18 patients had a personal history of atopy (11.4 vs. 18% of the controls, P = NS). Twenty-one patients had a family history of autoimmune disease other than thyroiditis (13.4 vs. 5% of the controls, P = 0.04), while 23 patients had a family history of thyroid disorder (14.6 vs. 3% of the controls, P = 0.006). In eight patients (5%) subclinical hypothyroidism of autoimmune aetiology (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) was revealed at the time of investigation. Six out of the eight patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis had a family history of thyroid disorder, which was statistically significant when compared to AA patients without thyroiditis (P < 0.001). The severity of AA was associated with early age of onset of the disease (P = 0.02).


The age of peak incidence of AA in children is 0-5 years. Children with AA have an increased family history of autoimmunity, and, among children with a first episode and short duration of AA (< 6 months), thyroid screening might be restricted in those with a positive family history of thyroid disorder. Thyroid screening should be routinely performed in all children with long-standing AA.

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The Derm News service provided by the Editorial Consultants of Skin Therapy Letter© and its founding editor Dr. Stuart Maddin.