I have for a number of years now been a victim of major hair loss caused by a disease known as Alopecia Areata.
Alopecia Areata is a rare disease and is one of the many types of Alopecia, which involves the loss of areas of hair on the heads of men, women and children alike and other parts of the body such as the beard, resulting in bald patches. The exact cause of Alopecia Areata is yet unknown, although it is generally agreed that it is a disease of the immune system. There is believed to be a genetic component in some cases and a possible link with stress. Alopecia causes your immune system to attack the affected hair follicles mistaking them for foreign cells. This halts hair growth (the anagen stage) and causes a move to resting (the telogen phase) where the hairs are then abruptly shed.
Alopecia is commonly recognized as balding in men, this is not completely true. Not many are aware of the various forms of Alopecia that affect both genders and cut across race and age groups.
- ALOPECIA AREATA – as previously explained is a rare autoimmune disease that results in the loss of patches of body and scalp hair causing bald spots in one or different areas on the head or chin.
- ALOPECIA TOTALIS – another rare autoimmune disease that causes total loss of hair on the Scalp.
- ALOPECIA UNIVERSALIS – A third variant of the disease that results in the loss of ALL body hair, hence the name “Universalis”.
- ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA – Commonly known as male pattern baldness. It is not classified as an autoimmune disease but is induced by the genetic makeup and is hereditary.
- TRACTION ALOPECIA – Like Androgenetic Alopecia is not a disease but is influenced by pressure on the hairline from overly tight weaving, which results in receding frontal hair, most commonly suffered by women as a result.
These are just a few of the various forms of this disease, and with this brief introduction I hope to set the record straight- ALOPECIA is not just about balding, it is the unwanted, uncontrollable loss of hair from the head, face and other body parts and in some cases the entire body. The application of Steroid based topical creams and topical Minoxidil solutions on bald patches, and Steroid injections on such spots are some of the presently available treatments of Alopecia Areata but a cure for hair re-growth is yet to be discovered.
As a victim of major hair loss that has spanned over 5 years now, I have witnessed first hand the ignorance of many towards this disease and the social stigma that comes with that ignorance. There are people who see hair loss as a form of spiritual attack rather than the real, human, medical condition it is. I am also aware of the traumatic psychological effects this disease leaves one with in place of their hair – Depression, Anxiety, low Self-esteem and Shame are a few of the scarring emotional traumas brought on by the disease, and in a society so fixated on aesthetics, “Weaves and Wigs” are a fantastic approach to hiding this humiliation – I should know, I do know because I’ve been there. Luckily I was fortunate enough to discover others like myself within my vicinity and also got connected with online support groups- Sharing my pain with others helped me through my ignominy and finally resulted in me taking my power back and finding the courage to shave my head and find a voice louder than mine by creating this blog “Hair Chronicles”, where I write on my experience with major hair loss and re-growth, in the hope of encouraging others in my position.
The essence of this post isn’t to encourage individuals with Alopecia to get a haircut, Heavens No! Rather it is to create public awareness towards the various types, particularly the rarer forms of the disease, and allow victims hiding behind wigs to realize that they are not alone. There are many of us living with these diseases, even public figures such as the American Olympic gold medalist Joanna Rowsell who was diagnosed with a chronic case of Alopecia Areata at a very tender age. Medical research is being carried out internationally to find a concrete cure to the disease and I am ever positive that someday very soon they will find one, but until then I hold unto the constantly uplifting belief that “I am NOT my hair”… This is the message I desire to convey to Alopecia victims and “People” in general today.