By Megan Johnson McCullough
Special to Village News 

Healthy Habits for Bonsall and Fallbrook Folks: Alopecia – The attack of the immune system

 

Last updated 2/2/2020 at 2:51pm

Hair loss can be embarrassing, concerning and even a sign of a health problem. Hair might start to show up on the pillow, more on the hairbrush, in the shower drain and, in some cases, small bald spots may become noticeable.

A possible cause of this excess hair loss could be from a condition called alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder. This type of hair loss can also be called spot baldness. In this case, the immune system has started to attack the hair follicles. Hair can start to fall out in clumps that can even be the size of a quarter.

Some might only lose hair in a few spots, while others might see this phenomenon all over their scalp. Hair loss might just occur on the scalp or it can occur over the entire body.

Most people appear to be overall generally healthy, but then sudden hair loss occurs. Alopecia areata is a case by case basis. For some, hair loss comes and goes and regrows itself each occurrence, however, for others the hair loss can be permanent.


Most people only experience hair loss with this condition, while others notice possible changes in the texture and shape of their finger and toe nails.

A dermatologist is the type of doctor to seek treatment for help. They might perform blood work and examine some of the hair. Unfortunately, alopecia areata cannot be cured. It can be treated to help the hair grow back.

Treatment might include topical immunotherapy which involves applying chemicals to the scalp. These chemicals will actually cause an allergic reaction if they work. The reaction is what causes the hair to grow back. This treatment usually has to be repeated several times for the itchy rash to be most effective.

Corticosteroids can also be used. These are prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs which can come in the form of injections that can be made into the scalp, given as pill form, or applied as an ointment or cream. Minoxidil, most commonly known as Rogaine, can be applied to the scalp and usually takes about 12 weeks for the hair to start to grow again.

Like many other autoimmune disorders, causality differs and is not always evident. For those who have alopecia areata, there are some lifestyle changes that help.

Stress seems to trigger this condition; therefore, one should aim to reduce their personal troubles as well as feelings of anxiety and sadness. Wearing hats, wigs and scarves can be done. It is important to remember that the lost hair can grow back, depending on what your immune system will allow.


There are options to cover up and there are options to try that have been effective for others. Sudden hair loss should be paid attention to and should be checked by your doctor. Fortunately, life can still carry on with or without hair and success comes in all types of packages, hair and hairless.

Megan Johnson McCullough holds a master's degree in physical education and health science, is a candidate for her doctorate, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.

 

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