Ophiasis Alopecia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

From medications to transplantation – there are many ways to treat this type of hair loss.

Reviewed by Tiffany YoungTiffany Young, Certified Trichology Practitioner
By Anjali SayeeAnjali Sayee  • 

Baldness and hair loss can be due to many reasons. Ophiasis alopecia is snake-patterned baldness that often affects the back of your head. Even though the hair loss is not extreme, it may cause emotional distress. However, few treatment options can manage this type of hair loss to some extent. Continue reading to know more about the condition and ways to manage it.

What Is Ophiasis Alopecia?

Woman with balding and thinning hair

Image: Shutterstock

Ophiasis alopecia is a subsection of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease. This condition is characterized by snake-like symmetric hair loss that often occurs at the back of your scalp. In some individuals, the hair fall may manifest on the sides of the scalp as well.

Ophiasis alopecia is known to affect younger people and is believed to be difficult to treat. It does not respond well to most medications. What causes this type of alopecia? We will explore the causes in the next section.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus mentioned Ophiasis alopecia in his ‘De Medicina,’ making it one of the earliest identified conditions (1).

Causes Of Ophiasis Alopecia

Ophiasis alopecia is an autoimmune condition caused by a malfunctioning immune system. The white blood cells produced by the immune system start attacking the hair follicles. This leads to inflammation and eventual hair loss (2).

Ophiasis alopecia (and alopecia, in general) is almost always related to genes. Those with a family history of this condition are most likely to experience it (3).

One misconception prevalent among people is that ophiasis alopecia could be caused by extreme stress. While extreme stress may cause temporary hair loss, there is no research linking it to alopecia.

Let us now take a look at the signs and symptoms of ophiasis alopecia.

Signs And Symptoms Of Ophiasis Alopecia

Woman holding her thinning fingernails which can be an early indicator of ophiasis alopecia

Image: Shutterstock

Ophiasis alopecia is often seen in young adults, although it may occur in the later stages of life too. The major symptom of this condition is hair loss in the characteristic snake-like pattern. One may also experience changes in nail color and texture. Nails with white spots and lines or nails losing their shine are the other signs to watch out for. As per anecdotal evidence, thinning of fingernails and toenails could also be the early signs of ophiasis alopecia.

Another sign of ophiasis alopecia is the loss of thick, long hair and an increase in miniature hair patterns in the affected areas (4).

Let us take a look at certain treatment methods that may help keep ophiasis alopecia under control.

Treatment For Ophiasis Alopecia

Woman receiving treatment for hair and scalp issues

Image: IStock

1. Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a popular over-the-counter medication useful for hair regrowth (5). The medication is available in liquid, foam, and cream formulations and is very easy to use. Applying the medication to the affected areas may help with hair regrowth. However, one must be aware that the medication can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year to show its effects. Ophiasis alopecia may not respond to medications quickly, and this may mean a longer wait for some. Patience is key.

Note: Consult your doctor before using minoxidil for treating ophiasis alopecia.

2. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are another popular medication for treating alopecia (3). Their anti-inflammatory properties may help suppress the inflammation caused by a malfunctioning immune system. Corticosteroids are available as injections and topical ointments.

3. Microneedling

Microneedling paired with red light therapy could help in the treatment of ophiasis alopecia (4). The method involves small punctures made on the scalp with microneedles. These continuous, small punctures may promote collagen production and help with hair regrowth.

4. Hair Transplantation

Doctor holding hair follicles for hair transplant

Image: IStock

Not always can medication help with hair regrowth. In such cases, opting for full hair transplantation might be a good idea. The process involves removing small patches of hair from the scalp’s unaffected areas and planting them on the affected areas.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Dupilumab, a monoclonal antibody used to treat dermatitis, may also help treat ophiasis alopecia (6). However, consult your doctor to know more.

While the treatment options are promising, isnt preventing the condition more desirable? But can you prevent ophiasis alopecia?

Preventing Ophiasis Alopecia

Anti-inflammatory foods may lower the risk of ophiasis alopecia

Image: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent ophiasis alopecia as it is an autoimmune disorder primarily caused by genes. However, you may delay its onset by keeping your immune system healthy and consuming foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties. Such foods include broccoli, blueberries, and salmon.

Ophiasis alopecia is characterized by snake-like hair loss at the back of your head. Though the hair loss is not extreme, it is difficult to treat as it does not respond well to medicines. A malfunctioning immune system, genetics, and stress can lead to this condition. Other symptoms of the condition include the change in nail color and texture. You can treat ophiasis alopecia with over-the-counter medications, steroids, microneedling, or hair transplants. With the timely and right treatment, you may be able to minimize the damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does Ophiasis alopecia last?

Ophiasis alopecia is an autoimmune disease that can be traced back to the genes. It cannot be cured, but you may manage the condition with adequate medical treatment.

What is the fastest way to cure alopecia?

Alopecia can’t be cured as it is an autoimmune disorder. However, you can manage the condition and maintain your hair health with proper treatment, which may involve using anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids to suppress the immune system.

Key Takeaways

  • Ophiasis alopecia can be hereditary and caused when the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
  • It is commonly seen among younger individuals, and treating it can be quite challenging.
  • This condition takes a long time to respond to medications, so be patient and consistent in your efforts. You can also opt for microneedling treatment.


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  1. OPHIASIS: Report of Two Cases
  2. Alopecia areata: a review of disease pathogenesis
  3. Alopecia areata update
  4. Ophiasis alopecia areata treated with microneedling
  5. Topical minoxidil solution (1% and 5%) in the treatment of alopecia areata
  6. Ophiasis treated with dupilumab
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