Background: No systematic review has yet evaluated the available evidence on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in alopecia areata (AA). Objectives: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of HRQOL studies among patients diagnosed with AA. Methods: A systematic search was performed for papers published between 1946 and 15 December 2014 in Medline, Embase, Web of Science, CINAHL, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library. Random-effects meta-analyses were conducted to pool data. Results: Twenty-one studies were included, representing a total of 2530 adult patients with AA. Of the 14 different HRQOL measures used in the studies, Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI; n = 8) and SF-36 (n = 7) were the most common. Three AA-specific HRQOL instruments were identified: Alopecia Areata Quality of Life Index, Alopecia Areata Quality of Life and Alopecia Areata Symptom Impact Scale. The mean pooled DLQI score of patients with AA was 6·3 (95% confidence interval 5·6–7·1). Comparing age- and sex-matched controls, the meta-analysis of SF-36 studies revealed significantly reduced HRQOL across the role-emotional, mental health and vitality domains (P < 0·001). Wearing a wig had a positive impact, while scalp involvement, anxiety and depression had a negative impact on HRQOL. Conflicting results were found regarding the association between HRQOL and age, sex, marital status and disease duration. Conclusions: Patients with AA experience significant impairment in HRQOL, especially in the area of mental health. Several generic and dermatology-specific HRQOL instruments have been used, but no validation studies have confirmed their applicability in AA. The newly developed AA-specific measures seem very promising; however, a more extensive assessment of validity and reliability is needed.
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