What Is Alopecia Mucinosa?
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Alopecia Mucinosa - Causes, Clinical Manifestation, Pathophysiology, Differential Diagnosis, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Nov 16, 2022 and last reviewed on Nov 18, 2022   -  4 min read


Alopecia mucinosa is a rare, idiopathic skin disorder found in association with other neoplastic or inflammatory conditions. Read the article to know more.

What Is Alopecia Mucinosa?

Alopecia mucinosa, is also called mucinosis follicularis, follicular mucinosis, and Pinkus’ follicular mucinosis. This condition has a predilection for children and adults in the third and fourth decades of life. It is an uncommon inflammatory disorder that was described in 1957 by Pinkus. The condition can be distinguished by bald patches of skin with prominent hair follicles. The mucin formation around hair follicles could be seen under the microscope. It is unclear why dermal-type mucin is deposited selectively within an epithelial structure. However, follicular keratinocytes have been considered the source of mucin.

Mucins appear as stringy clear, or whitish and are mainly composed of hyaluronic acid, a standard ingredient of the ground substance covering the collagen in the dermis. There are several other forms of mucinosis, and they are:

  • Pinkus type - A primary and acute disorder that occurs in children and adolescents.

  • A primary and chronic disorder occurs in people above 40 years of age.

  • Secondary disorder - It is associated with benign or malignant skin disease.

  • Urticaria-like follicular mucinosis (rare).

What Are the Causes of Alopecia Mucinosa?

The exact cause of alopecia mucinosa is not known. However, it may react with circulating immune systems and cell-mediated immunity, including a reaction to persistent antigens such as Staphylococcus aureus. In the follicle, the mucin, which is composed of hyaluronate and sulfated glycosaminoglycans, disrupts cellular attachments and destroys the pilosebaceous subunit. It then deposits in hair follicles and sebaceous glands to construct an inflammatory condition that later breaks down the ability of the affected hair follicles to produce hair. With this loss of the follicle, alopecia becomes evident clinically.


What Are the Clinical Manifestations of Alopecia Mucinosa?

Alopecia mucinosa can occur in any part of the body, but it most commonly occurs in the head and neck region.

The clinical manifestations of several other forms of mucinosis are:

What Is the Pathophysiology of Alopecia Mucinosa?

There is still a controversy on this topic, whether the disease is a reactive or neoplastic process. Some researchers suggest that alopecia mucinosa is, in fact, a form of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma with a benign or unpredictable course, while others state that it may be a cutaneous T-cell lymphoid dyscrasia. This occurs due to dysfunctional T cells yielding mucin production by fibroblasts surrounding follicular epithelium or excess mucin production by follicular keratinocytes. Mucin accumulates within the follicular epithelium and sebaceous glands, causing keratinocytes to disconnect. In more advanced lesions, the follicles are converted into cystic spaces containing mucin, inflammatory cells, and altered keratinocytes. A perifollicular infiltrate of lymphocytes, histiocytes, and eosinophils can be seen.

What Are the Differential Diagnosis of Alopecia Mucinosa?

The differentiation between mycosis fungoides-associated follicular mucinosis and primary follicular mucinosis is challenging, and there are no reliable criteria. Although many investigators have questioned the existence of a primary form of follicular mucinosis, features in favor of a primary form are:

  • The young age of the patient.

  • A solitary plaque or a limited number of lesions in the head and neck region.

  • The spontaneous resolution of epidermotropism and atypical lymphocytes.

Secondary causative factors of mucinosis follicularis, like granuloma fungoides, cannot be diagnosed for years, and it needs detailed follow-ups and investigations.

Some other conditions that are considered in the differential diagnosis enclose:

  • Alopecia areata causes non-scarring localized hairless plaques.

  • Psoriasis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, and tinea capitis cause dry patches and baldness.

  • Lichen planopilaris and discoid lupus erythematosus cause localized areas of scaling and scarring of alopecia.

How Is Alopecia Mucinosa Diagnosed?

With the clinical manifestations of alopecia mucinosa and supported by histopathological findings on biopsy, it could be diagnosed by:

  • Inflammation.

  • Mucin accumulation in the pilosebaceous follicle and oil gland.

  • Degeneration of follicular structures.

  • Keratinous debris inside a cystic cavity.

The microscopic findings of the underlying disease are manifested in secondary alopecia mucinosa.

How Is Alopecia Mucinosa Treated?

It is said that alopecia mucinosa has no reliable adequate treatment, and doctors find it difficult to treat this condition. Primary and acute follicular mucinosis that normally occurs in children will fix automatically on its own. As the other forms of the disease also have a small chance of spontaneous resolution, the effect of the treatment is quite difficult to interpret. The following are the treatment methods that have been tried with a limited success rate.

They are:

  • Oral antibiotics such as Minocin.

  • Topical and systemic corticosteroids.

  • Dapsone.

  • Interferons.

  • Topical and systemic photochemotherapy (PUVA).

  • UVA1 phototherapy.

  • Topical nitrogen mustard.

  • Intralesional steroids.

  • Radiation therapy.

  • Topical Bexarotene 1% gel.

  • Indomethacin.

In the case of secondary alopecia mucinosa, it should be treated appropriately for the underlying skin disease, especially if it is cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).


Alopecia mucinosa is a rare disorder and may be difficult to diagnose initially. However, it is a treatable condition and can occur at a particular age, depending on the type of alopecia mucinosa. Healthcare professionals should be careful during physical examinations because of their rare incidence. In addition, people experiencing new symptoms should consider it seriously and reach a doctor in the early stages to avoid future complications.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is It Possible to Cure Follicular Mucinosis?

Many benign follicular mucinosis cases, especially if the skin lesions are limited and localized, fade off and disappear over a few months to years. Other cases may last longer, especially if the skin lesions are more widespread. If scarring occurs, there may be permanent bald areas. The prognosis is worse if lymphoma is present in the background.


How Does Follicular Mucinosis Appear?

Pink papules (little bumps) or plaques (larger raised or thickened patches of skin) with visible pores representing hair follicle openings are common. The mucin (a transparent, gelatinous substance) may seep from these pores when squeezed or touched.


Is Follicular Mucinosis Scratchy?

In urticaria-like follicular mucinosis, the condition manifests as small, itchy pimples (papules) or elevated patches (plaques). These can be found predominantly on the head and neck. The other forms of mucinosis may not be itchy.


What Is the Treatment for Cutaneous Mucinosis?

Topical therapy includes steroid creams and intralesional steroids. Systemic treatment involves corticosteroids, antimalarials, Hydroquinone, and immune modulators such as Methotrexate, Dapsone, and Ciclosporin. Treatment includes general measures such as quitting smoking, avoiding the sun, and using broad-spectrum sunscreen and vitamin D supplements.


Which Homeopathic Treatment for Alopecia Is Most Effective?

Alopecia areata can be effectively treated by homeopathy. Homeopathic treatments for alopecia areata work by improving the immune system. Fluoric acid is one of the best homeopathic treatments for alopecia areata. Fluoric acid promotes hair regeneration in bald regions. In addition, fluoric acid is an excellent homeopathic treatment for hair loss following a fever.


What Does End-Stage Alopecia Entail?

Scarring alopecia almost always goes away on its own.  The bald spots shrink in end-stage alopecia, and any irritation, itching, burning, or pain subsides. The skin biopsy at the end stage usually reveals no inflammation around the hair follicles. Usually, bald patches are devoid of hair follicles. Sometimes, however, hair follicles are not entirely damaged and can regenerate at the edges of bald patches.


Is Focal Mucinosis a Benign Condition?

Focal mucinosis is a distinct benign condition characterized by the presence of mucin, a hyaluronic acid compound, in the dermis. The lesion often manifests as a single, asymptomatic papule or nodule on the back or extremities, unrelated to any underlying systemic disease. 


What Is the Cause of Follicular Eczema?

Follicular eczema reactions may resemble persistent goosebumps because they affect hair follicles. Inflammation may cause the hair on the affected area to stand on edge, and it may also seem like redness, swelling, itching, or warmth. It is triggered by common allergens such as pollen, dust, and mold.


What Does Skin Mucinosis Mean?

Mucinosis is an unusual skin condition characterized by abnormal mucin deposition in the skin. This is a jelly-like complex carbohydrate material called hyaluronic acid that exists naturally as part of the connective tissue in the mid-layer of the skin. In mucinoses, aberrant deposits can be localized or extensive. 


What Are Mucin Deposits?

In cutaneous mucinosis, an abnormal accumulation of mucin occurs, known as mucin deposits. Mucin comprises glycosaminoglycans (most notably hyaluronic acid) and is generally produced in modest amounts by fibroblasts as a component of dermal connective tissue. Intriguingly, mucin, which can absorb 1,000 times its weight in water, is essential for maintaining water and salt homeostasis in the dermis.


What Exactly Is Papular Mucinosis?

Papular mucinosis is an uncommon skin condition characterized by mucin deposition in the skin. The hallmarks of the localized type are the hard, waxy papules with a localized distribution and no systemic characteristics. The generalized type, known as scleromyxoedema, manifests as gradual skin thickening and extensive flesh-colored papules grouped in lines.


Is Alopecia Curable?

Alopecia areata is not curable but can be treated, and the hair can regrow. Drugs used to treat other illnesses are frequently used to treat alopecia. Treatment includes Corticosteroids and Minoxidil. Corticosteroids can be administered orally (as a pill), topically (massaged into the skin), or as an injection into the scalp or other places. The treatment response could be gradual. It usually takes around 12 weeks of Minoxidil treatment before hair starts to grow.


Which Alopecia Is Irreversible?

Cicatricial alopecia is a type of irreversible hair loss in which hair follicles are damaged, leaving scar tissue behind. The two categories are primary and secondary. Its primary form can arise for unexplained reasons and manifest as hair follicle inflammation that prevents cell growth. Secondary cicatricial alopecia results from scarring hair loss caused by external factors such as a severe burn, infection, cancer, radiotherapy, or another physical injury.


Is Alopecia a Severe Issue?

Alopecia areata is not physically painful or life-threatening. However, hair loss can have severe psychosocial implications. Patients may also develop symptoms associated with hair loss, such as worsening eye or nose irritation following nasal or eyelash hair loss.


How Can You Prevent the Spread of Alopecia?

When aiming to stop alopecia areata from progressing, avoiding unnecessary hair or scalp trauma, lowering stress, and reviewing nutrition are beneficial activities. Because an immunological response causes the condition, pinpointing the particular trigger may require trial and error and might help prevent the spread of the condition.

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Last reviewed at:
18 Nov 2022  -  4 min read




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