September is Alopecia Awareness month. I’m thinking it’s a good time to discuss the subject since I only recently learned that the word alopecia means “hair loss.” As a writer and teacher, I love learning and sharing stories. So when Sean at National Hair Centers asked if I would do a guest blog about my alopecia experience, I said, “Sure, I’d love to share what I learned.”
After complaining to my Doctor about clumps of hair falling out and a bald patch near my ear, she diagnosed Alopecia Areata. She told me, “Nothing much to get upset about. Alopecia is a common form of hair loss for women after 50.” What? Nothing to be upset about? Upset I was. For me, my hair was one great feature I’d always had – and I wanted to keep it.
So I got busy doing research. I found out a lot of information about all the different forms of alopecia and how it affects men, women and even children. I found various remedies used to combat and “cure” alopecia. Most importantly, I found a hair loss treatment center that recommended the best possible way to manage my type of alopecia.
Alopecia areata affects about 5 million people in the United States, both female, and male. It is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles in the scalp, causing them to fall out. You can also have some tingling sensations in the balding area. Onset factors include a person’s genetic makeup, stress, the onset of illness or a result of fluctuating hormone levels. It can result in a single bald patch…or patches of extensive hair loss. Sometimes the hair grows back in…only to fall out again. Needless to say, Alopecia is a frustrating experience.
Alopecia totalis is a more advanced form of alopecia areata which results in the total loss of all hair on the scalp.
Alopecia universalis is the most advanced form of alopecia which results in total loss of all hair on the body, including eyelashes and eyebrows. And men can suffer Alopecia barbae; alopecia areata that is localized to the beard area, making the beard patchy or almost non-existent.
Androgenetic Alopecia is a thinning of the hair to an almost transparent state. For men, it is the most common type of progressive hair loss and thought to be hereditary. Men with this type of alopecia have more distinct patterns of baldness which gave rise to the term “male pattern baldness.” The majority of women with androgenetic – also called androgenic – alopecia have diffuse thinning on all areas of the scalp.
Traction alopecia is usually due to excessive pulling or tension on hair shafts as a result of certain hair styles like ponytails, braids and flat twists. It is seen more often in women, particularly those of East Indian and Afro-Caribbean origin. Hair loss depends on the way the hair is being pulled. Prolonged traction alopecia can stop new hair follicles developing and lead to permanent hair loss.
And, I came across a few other hair loss terms you might want to know.
This hair loss is generally caused by chemicals such as those used to treat cancer. Initially, it causes patchy hair loss, which often then becomes total hair loss. The good news is that when you stop using these chemicals the hair normally grows back (usually about 6 months later). Many medicines used to treat even common diseases can cause some amount of hair loss.
Telogen Effluvium is when more than normal amounts of hair fall out and there is a general ‘thinning’ of the hair. Unlike some other hair and scalp conditions, it is temporary and the hair growth recovers. The tough thing is knowing when “temporary” becomes an ongoing problem.
Menopause and After
For women, at menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and this seems to be responsible, or partly so, for hair thinning. Testing blood sugar levels, thyroid function and for a rheumatoid disease may be suggested by your doctor to rule out other possible causes for any hair loss. For menopause and post-menopause women, doctors may suggest a limited-term prescription for estrogen, Rogaine (Minoxidil), steroids, or metformin (a drug often used with type 2 diabetes).
My Doctor gave me the appropriate tests (all negative thankfully!) and discussed lifestyle changes with me. Yes, I needed to lose a few pounds, eat better and take a higher dosage of B vitamins. All of this made sense for my general health but didn’t seem to help my hair loss much. We also discussed medicinal options that might help, but all of these medications carry possible side-effects and just didn’t fit my lifestyle.
So what did I do?
I found a hair loss treatment center in Phoenix (my hometown) called National Hair Centers. I had a meeting with the consultants to hear about my options for hair loss solutions. National Hair Centers had both surgical, non-surgical and Doctor supervised treatment plans. Since my alopecia areata was still somewhat under control, I decided on the Low-level Laser Light (LLLL) treatments. This solution controls additional hair loss and promotes healthy hair growth. Laser therapy treatments are done under the supervision of a doctor. I went with an FDA cleared portable laser I use at home. It fit with my busy schedule and I used it every other day for 30 minutes.
I was lucky. I found a treatment center that understood my hair loss and found a solution that made me feel in control. I made friends with other clients at NHC that supported my efforts. I also know if my hair loss progresses to a point I want an alternative solution, NHC will have exactly what will fit for me. http://nationalhair.com/women-hair-replacement-and-wigs/
But, the best thing I found out in my journey through alopecia’s causes and effects was that I was not alone. I didn’t know it the day I was diagnosed with thinning hair due to alopecia, but treatment centers like NHC provides the support and solution you deserve.
To learn more about alopecia I recommend the National Alopecia Areata Foundation website https://www.naaf.org/