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11-year-old has a rare autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, but new treatment is helping it grow back

8:53 AM, Apr 16, 2012   |    comments
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11-year-old Zoe Cass



Tampa, FL. - Hair loss is common for many later in life. But the kind we're telling you about is affecting an 11-year-old girl.

She has a rare autoimmune disorder that causes her to lose much of her hair. Now, for the first time in her life, she has found a new treatment that's making her hair grow back.

This is how 11-year-old Zoe Cass spends her Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"It's just like a little warm, then you feel the glass which is kinda cool," says Cass.

It doesn't take long and she says it doesn't hurt. Two reasons this treatment is just right for her.

"I think it was really bad when I was 9. Cause I didn't have any hair here or in the back. And I had a huge spot here too."

She has a condition called alopecia areata...a rare autoimmune disorder that causes her to lose her hair.

It affects about 2 percent of Americans.

"The inflammatory cells are attacking the lower part of her hair shaft and causing her to lose her hair in the area that it's affected," says Dr. Seth Forman, a dermatologist who is using this new treatment.

Zoe has never had hair on this part of her head. But she's found something that's helping her hair grow back.

It's a new treatment called targeted PUVA or psoralen plus ultra violet A therapy.

"Hopefully the hair follicles that haven't been completely destroyed, if they haven't been attacked by the inflammatory cells, the UVA light is scaring away the inflammatory cells that allow her hair shaft to continue to grow hair, or to restart growing hair in those areas," says Dr. Forman.

There are other treatments for Zoe's condition, but they include hundreds of injections and unnecessary exposure to UVA light. With this procedure, it targets the specific area where Zoe needs treatment. 

After nine treatments, there is hair growth.

"I was happy and hoped it would work for a long time," says Cass.

If you think Zoe is sad she has to sit in this chair a few days a week, you'd be wrong.

In her words, "she doesn't care." She says it's just hair.

"To me, it doesn't hurt so it doesn't bother me. And I try to forget about it sometimes, and I just be me."

There are side effects , they're similar to excessive sun exposure. But the benefits for Zoe outweigh the risk.

Learn more about the treatment here:

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