Alopecia areata is a non-life threatening hair loss disease. It may not literally kill you, but in other ways deep down it could. I know this from my personal life. I have been an individual that has been suffering from alopecia for the past six years. Its not easy living in this world with it. I feel at times that its a pain just to go to school and be in public with my disease.
It does not matter where you go but people are always starring at you and whispering about you, because you have no hair or bald spots throughout your scalp. I know that my disease has changed me and made me be the person that I am. Due to always looking different to others, Ive grown to never judge people by their looks. Im as normal as any other person, except for the fact that I loose my hair and at times Im almost completely bald.
I chose to research Alopecia areata as part of my portfolio because not only will it help my grade in genetics it will help me understand and learn more about my disease. I have never been fully educated about what I have. My parents dont understand it either.
At first when I found out what I was suffering from my mother and I tried everything we could, at one point I was getting 60 shots of steroids in the scalp. Back about three years ago, I gave up going to all the different Doctor appointments. By doing that I was hoping that my Alopecia areata would run its course and my hair would just grow back and stay for good. Now That I have been doing this research on it and finding out that I am not alone with this. Im going to do something about my disease and hopefully find something that will help. I already know that there is no cure but Im sure there are some kind of pills that may help. Its worth trying anything to get my hair back.
The definition of alopecia areata is an inflammatory hair loss disease. Many of the facts and the on set of the hair loss are unknown. Many doctors and researchers have came up with a great amount of hypothesis and theories on the disease. Many suggest that it is an autoimmune disease. They also suggest that its where ones own immune system prevents hair follicles from producing hair fiber.
As I was doing my research I came across the autoimmune part and totally lost. Its a breakdown in the immune system. As we know every person produces their own cell types that fight off disease and infection. In order to fight off the bad bacteria our bodies must be able to recognize the bad known as antigens (often proteins) on the surface of the UN wanted invaders. Everyones immune system should be able to recognize the bad, and be able to fight it off. In an autoimmunity this is where the immune system is not able to recognize the invaders and fight them off.
This is not known for sure if this is what alopecia areata is. It is a hypothesis, its based on certain antigens in the hair follicle. Many reports and printouts I came across kept saying, the etiology of alopecia areata is entirely unknown”(e.g. Price 1991, Parret 1984, Paus 1993). According to (editorial 1984) evidence hair loss is a result of immune system activity. Which is then classified as an autoimmunity. This evidence is based on observations of an immune cell in and around the hair follicles (Parret 1984) and the knowledge that some people with the disease can re grow hair when under going immunosuppressive therapy. Immunosuppressive therapy is a suppression of the immune response. It is done through drugs and or radiation. They have found out that the immune system is acting normal against abnormal hair follicles.
Through all the research that Ive been doing, I keep coming across the line that its still unknown. This disease is still being researched. Its not really safe to say an autoimmunity is what Alopecia areata is for sure, but a good hypothesis. There us no cure that has been found for Alopecia areata yet. It has a course that it runs. Many of the doctors and researchers that are on top of Alopecia areata feel that it is something to do with the nervous system. They think it could also be something to do with the emotional stress on certain people.
Im going to refer back to me for a prime example. All the doctors that I have seen for my disease have ruled it to my stress as the main cause for my hair loss. When I first began to lose my hair my parents were getting a divorce. Ive noticed over six years, every time I get stressed over the littlest things my hair begins to fall out. Every summer I get a full head of hair and I look pretty normal. Then usually by the fifth week of the new school year, its gone again. I am seeing a new doctor right now and Im on a few new pills for my stress. Its too early to see if its going to help.
The cause of Alopecia areata is really thought to be by the nervous system. This is a hypothesis backed by many dermatologists. Patients that have this disease can support this hypothesis. Most of the patients with this disease have had emotional or physical stress and have showed some kind of trauma prior to the onset of there hair loss. Emotional and physical damage are believed to affect hair follicles through the nervous system. This hypothesis is still very widely used because its difficult to prove or disprove that Alopecia areata is a nervous disorder.
Patients that have Alopecia areata are under extensive mental stress. I dont think others realize how much this world is based on the image. Right away in this day and age people are very quick to ask what kind of cancer are you being treated for. This kind of stuff puts an extreme amount of stress on a person. You never know if youre not going to be accepted because your bald or you have bald patches all over your head.
Much of the stress is from the unpredictable course that Alopecia areata plays. It could only last for a short time and normal hair growth will return very quickly. The hair loss can occur in as little as a few patches here and there or extreme as your whole body. Only 7% of people with Alopecia suffer from Alopecia Totalis (total hair loss) (Safaur 1995). With most cases of Alopecia areata it lasts for many years and under goes some kind of cycle. At times of the cycle you may be re growing hair in one part of the scalp while in others the hair loss is developing.
Along with much of the other research there is no set diagnostic test for alopecia areata. Dermatologists figure out that its alopecia areata by a process of elimination of other hair loss causes. The most common symptom or sign that you might have is a smooth bald spot on your scalp that occurs sometimes within 24 hours. Some people may even feel a tingling or pain in the affected area.
Dermatologists can also perform a hair pull test, and if the hair comes out very easily that more then likely will indicative that there will be more hair loss. Sometimes in certain circumstances they have to do a small skin biopsy. They take this skin from your scalp and do some microscopic examination. They can see if your cells are doing what they should the right way. They can see if your hair follicles have the right antibodies that they need.
The hair fiber that falls out is the subject of many studies in the Alopecia areata research. If the doctors use electron microscopy to look at the newest part of the hair follicle they can see if it looks UN usual or not. In most cases if you have Alapecia areata it will look different. If it looks different and there are deposits of keratin and constrictions in the hair fiber. At times the cuticle can be missing too and you can see the cracks along the length of the hair. With the irregular construction of hair follicles it gives the hair weak spots and makes it very easy to break off. When this happens in Alopecia areata it will leave an exclamation looking bald spot on your scalp. Some dermatologists also use that as part of the diagnostics.
After the doctor finds out if your hair loss is Alopecia Areata you can begin some kind of treatment. There are not many treatments out there. I know that my dermatologists put me on steroids that were injected into my scalp every three weeks. We found out with my form of Alopecia areata it made it worse. The only thing it did for me was made me really fat. This made my whole condition ten times worse being in the 5th grade at the time. There are many kinds of chemicals that you can try to stimulate your hair follicles to get the hair to grow and stay.
Everyone that has Alopecia areata has potential of his or her hair growing back and staying then being in a remission. You will never cure it forever you will always have it and have to deal with it. There are different kinds of therapys that you can do, but if youve had Alopecia areata for over two years you only have about 40% chance that it will help.
Now that I have learned many new facts about my disease I am going to stick to the stress idea. Im going to go back to my doctor and talk to him about what I learned and what I want to try to do to help me grow some hair.