Dear Dr. Cannell:
My daughter was diagnosed with alopecia areata 2 years ago when she was 10. There seems to be a vit D connection. She loses her hair in late winter and then begins to regrows some hair in the early fall. Her vit D level is in the 30’s with about 1000 IU/day supplementation.
I read that some people have vit D receptor problems and cannot absorb vit d.
Have you come across this in your experience?
Alopecia areata (AA) is an inflammatory medical condition in which hair is lost, usually from the scalp in different spots, thus it is known as spot baldness. Most researchers believe it is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks some component of the hair follicles, the area of your scalp that grows hair.
In my opinion, the fact that it is seasonal in your daughter is an important clue. While I have no personal experience or letters about it, a recent open access paper reported that a potent topical activated vitamin D analog, calcipotriol, was successful in treating AA in one patient with dramatic before and after pictures.
However, I know another paper showed no effect with calcipotriol but I cannot locate the study on PubMed. The above paper showed that calcipotriol increased the number of vitamin D receptors (VDR) and discusses the VDR’s connection to AA. As with male pattern baldness, AA is connected to the VDR in a complicated way, suggesting the VDR is locked up in baldness. However, in the above case calcipotriol stimulated growth of VDR in the scalp.
As your daughter’s vitamin D level is only in the 30s — low normal by most labs and low to us here at the Vitamin D Council — I would do four things.