Cicatricial Alopecia - Diagnosis

Diagnosis

A scalp biopsy is essential for the diagnosis of cicatricial alopecia and is the necessary first step, as it can be hard to know the diagnosis for sure without a biopsy. Findings of the scalp biopsy, including the type of inflammation present, location and amount of inflammation, and other changes in the scalp, are necessary to diagnose the type of cicatricial alopecia, to determine the degree of activity, and to select appropriate therapy.

Clinical evaluation of the scalp is also important. Symptoms of itching, burning, pain, or tenderness usually signal ongoing activity. Signs of scalp inflammation include redness, scaling, and pustules. However, in some cases there are few symptoms or signs and only the scalp biopsy demonstrates the active inflammation. The overall extent and pattern of hair loss is noted and sometimes photographed for future comparison. A hair "pull test" is performed to see if growing, or anagen, where hairs are pulled out easily. The pulled hairs are mounted on a slide and the hair bulbs are viewed with a light microscope to determine how many are growing hairs and how many are resting hairs. In addition, if pustules are present, cultures are taken to identify which microbes, if any, may be contributing to the inflammation. A thorough evaluation that includes all of these parameters is important in diagnosing a cicatricial alopecia and in identifying features in individual patients that will help the selection of therapy.

New diagnostic techniques, such as trichoscopy may be used for non-invasive differential diagnosis of cicatricial alopecia.

Diagnosis and treatment of cicatricial alopecias is often challenging. For this reason, it is helpful to be evaluated by a dermatologist with a special interest or expertise in scalp and hair disorders, and who is familiar with current diagnostic methods and therapies.

Read more about this topic:  Cicatricial Alopecia

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