Frontal fibrosing alopecia: clinical presentations and prognosis

K T Tan, A G Messenger
British Journal of Dermatology 2009, 160 (1): 75-9

BACKGROUND: Frontal fibrosing alopecia is an uncommon condition characterized by progressive frontotemporal recession due to inflammatory destruction of hair follicles. Little is known about the natural history of this disease.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the clinical features and natural history of frontal fibrosing alopecia.

METHODS: We studied the cases notes of patients diagnosed with frontal fibrosing alopecia from 1993 to 2008 at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield.

RESULTS: There were 18 patients aged between 34 and 71 years. Three were premenopausal. All had frontotemporal recession with scarring. This was associated with partial or complete loss of eyebrows in 15 patients while four had hair loss at other sites. One had keratosis pilaris-like papules on the face, and one had follicular erythema on the cheeks. Three patients had oral lichen planus, of whom two also had cutaneous lichen planus affecting other sites of the body. Treatments given included intralesional triamcinolone acetonide, 0.1% tacrolimus ointment and oral hydroxychloroquine. Progression of frontotemporal recession was seen in some patients, but not all. In one patient the hair line receded by 30 mm over 72 months, whereas in another patient there was no positional change in the hair line after 15 years.

CONCLUSIONS: Frontal fibrosing alopecia is more common in postmenopausal women, but it can occur in younger women. It may be associated with mucocutaneous lichen planus. Recession of the hair line may progress inexorably over many years but this is not inevitable. It is not clear whether or not treatment alters the natural history of the disease - the disease stabilized with time in most of the patients with or without continuing treatment.

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