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New evidence of link between alopecia areata and retinal disease

Alopecia areata. Photo by Thirunavukkarasye-Raveendran via Wikimedia Commons

In a retrospective cohort comparison group study of nearly 10,000 patients with alopecia areata (AA), researchers in Taiwan have identified abnormalities in the retinal structure of these patients. These eye findings in patients with AA have been reported previously, but primarily through single cases reports.

Led by Dr. Hui-Chu Ting of the department of dermatology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, investigators evaluated 9,909 patients with AA and 99,090 matched controls using the country’s National Health Insurance Research Database.

“This large population-based cohort study found that patients with AA had a significantly higher risk of retinal diseases, including retinal detachment, retinal vascular occlusion and retinopathy, than controls,” the authors wrote in the paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Detailed results showed that patients with AA had an adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) of 2.96 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.20–3.98) for retinal diseases. Stratifying these eye diseases, patients with AA had a significantly higher risk of developing retinal detachment (aHR, 3.80; 95% CI, 1.97–7.31), retinal vascular occlusion (aHR, 2.14; 95% CI, 1.09–4.19), and retinopathy (aHR 3.18; 95% CI 2.21–4.57) than controls.

The authors also found the risk of retinal disease was higher in AA patients 20 to 49 years of age, and in those AA patients who had been on systemic corticosteroids for 30 days or longer.

The researchers note that further studies are needed to clarify the pathophysiology of this association. They also pointed out that almost all the patients studied were residents of Taiwan, so the validity of their findings in other demographic groups is unclear.


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