Background: Systemic corticosteroids are one of the most commonly used therapeutic modalities for patients with extensive alopecia areata (AA), although they entail several drawbacks. Objective: To determine the best modality for systemic corticosteroid use in terms of their efficacy, relapse rate, and side effects. Methods: Fifty-one patients with single or multiple AA (AA/multiplex) and 38 patients with alopecia totalis or AA universalis (AA totalis/universalis) were enrolled in this open study. They were randomly divided into three groups depending on the time of their initial visit. They were administered (1) oral dexamethasone (Dex) 0.5 mg/day for 6 months (Dex group), (2) intramuscular triamcinolone acetonide (imTA) 40 mg once a month for 6 months followed by 40 mg once every 1.5 months for 1 year (imTA group), and (3) pulse therapy (PT) using oral predonine 80 mg for 3 consecutive days once every 3 months (PT group). After the treatment, each treatment modality was evaluated by the response rate, relapse rate, and side effect profile. Results: The response rate of AA/multiplex was significantly better in the imTA group than in the Dex group. The overall relapse rate and that of AA totalis/universalis were significantly better in the PT group than in the Dex group. Dysmenorrhea was the most common and problematic side effect. Impairment of the adrenocortical reserve was seen in 7% of the PT group and 23% of the imTA group, which was recovered without any further medical treatment. Conclusion: imTA or pulse therapy is effective for AA and has an acceptable level of side effects. The development of a new strategy to reduce the relapse rate is needed.
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