Arthritis medicine offers hope to millions as hair-loss cure

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Lori Stokes has the details

There is new hope for millions suffering from hair loss, with a medication for arthritis possibly holding the key for some.

Now, one woman is sharing how it made all the difference.

Madeline Gross loves being able to brush her hair, because for so many years, she was without it.

"It was one of the most challenging things I had to go through in my life," she said.

When Gross was a sophomore in college in 2010, she lost all of the hair on her head and even her eyelashes and eyebrows. Devastated, she tried several treatments, but nothing worked, so she started wearing a wig.

"I was only 18, so it definitely took a toll on my self esteem," she said.

Gross is one of approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. suffering from alopecia areata, a condition where the immune system attacks a person's own follicles, causing them to lose patches of hair or even go completely bald.

"With active research, we've found some very interesting and new treatments for certain types of hair loss," said Dr. Doris Day, attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital.

New research is finding an arthritis drug called Xeljanz may help people with alopecia. In one small study of 66 patients, more than 30 percent re-grew hair. While Gross didn't participate in the study, she did try the new treatment.

"I was able to get her the information," Dr. Day said. "And after her being on the drug a few months, she started to re-grow hair."

Now, the 25-year-old has a full head of hair and says she suffered no side effects from the treatment. With the wig gone, her confidence is back.

"I've learned not only that beauty is on the outside, but also the inside," she said.

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