There are many things that can cause hair loss, some of them are related to genetics or health conditions within the individual, while others are the indirect result of external events.
Now, figures from the Ministry of Health in New Zealand have suggested that the series of tragic earthquakes which struck Christchurch and the country’s Canterbury region last year and this year may have indirectly resulted in an increased number of hair loss cases in the area.
According to the Ministry of Health figures, 218 people in Canterbury have claimed government grants for wigs and other hairpieces for the treatment of temporary hair loss, since September of last year. This is more than double the number of people who sought such help in the previous year, with just 83 people applying for the grant between September 2009 and 2010.
While a concrete link cannot be established, some people are suggesting that this sudden increase in hair loss is a result of the extreme stress generated by living through a number of earthquakes and their aftermath.
The first earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island in early September 2010, and though causing widespread damage in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second city, there were no reported fatalities. A second more deadly quake however followed in February of this year, causing 181 deaths. Several months later, in June, another earthquake struck the same area, causing further damage to the already devastated area.
High demand for wigs in Canterbury region
Janine Antram, a Canterbury based government-approved wig provider, told the New Zealand Herald that roughly a hundred girls and women experiencing Alopecia had sought help from her to obtain a wig since last October. Many of them were aged between 10 and 30 years-old, with the youngest being just eight.
Ms. Antram told the Herald: “There is huge hair loss going on in Christchurch. I don’t know if it is related to the earthquake, but I do know Alopecia is related to stress, and clients have said [their hair loss] has come on since the earthquakes.”
Other figures reported by the paper reveal that more than 10,000 parents are currently seeking clinical and therapeutic help for their children, who have been traumatised by the unprecedented series of natural disasters.
Trauma, stress and Alopecia
Alopecia is an auto-immune disorder which can develop in people of either gender and any age, though it does tend to be more common within the age range experienced by Ms. Antram. The exact causes of the condition are unknown, but it is widely thought to be triggered by stress and traumatic events, as appears to have been the case in the Canterbury area.
In individuals suffering from Alopecia, the body’s own immune defences begin to attack healthy hair follicles, preventing them from growing, and resulting in hair loss on the scalp. Such hair loss is generally patchy in nature to begin with, but it can progress to the point where all hair is lost from the scalp. This is referred to as Alopecia Totalis.
In some individuals, the hair loss can develop further, and all body hair is lost, including eyebrows and eyelashes. When the condition reaches this point it is known as Alopecia Universalis.
The traumatic events which trigger the hair loss needn’t be as severe, widespread and catastrophic as those experienced in New Zealand. British comedy star Matt Lucas, for example, has attributed his childhood hair loss to a delayed reaction to a car accident he was involved in at the age of four. For others meanwhile it might occur as a result of being bullied, experiencing parental separation, or even falling out of a tree.
Will hair lost through Alopecia re-grow?
In many cases, the hair will re-grow in time. Hair loss treatments, such as Minoxidil 12.5% cream, may also aid the re-growth process. Some doctors prescribe steroids injections for hair loss, but such treatments may have side effects. Those with only patchy hair loss, Alopecia Areata, have a far greater chance of it re-growing than those who have lost more substantial amounts.
Sometimes the hair may re-grow for a time, only for the Alopecia to reappear at a later date. This was the case for TV presenter Gail Porter, who has struggled with Alopecia Areata on and off for many years.
If you’d like to know more about hair loss due to Alopecia, and how we can help, please contact us for a free consultation, or fill in our online diagnostic form for a home-use treatment programme that we can post anywhere in the world.