A young woman from Wales has spoken to a national newpaper website about how her love of sport helped her to deal with the hair loss she endured as a result of having a severe form of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata.
Gemma Nelson, 22, started suddenly losing her hair to the condition seven years ago and while she suffered no bullying at school (“everyone was really supportive,” she tells Wales Online), she found her confidence was dented because people would look at her in the street. “I found that quite difficult,” she says.
Lost eyelashes and eyebrows
Like many people affected by the disorder – which can strike anyone at any time, without warning – Gemma was greatly troubled by the diagnosis, and as she had a rather extreme form of Alopecia Areata she was dismayed to hear that treatment options were limited. She started wearing a wig to conceal her bald patches, and says that her eyelashes and eyebrows also fell out – meaning that she likely had a rare form of the disease, either Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis.
Alopecia Areata causes hair loss because the body is adversely reacting to one of several suspected “triggers”, such as extreme shock or stress, allergies and even seasonal changes. In many cases, the shedding that results from the body attacking itself is seen as small bald spots. Sometimes these grow back of their own accord – but not always.
Alopecia Areata treatment aims to halt the progress of the patchy hair loss and also encourage new hair to regrow. At Belgravia this but it is not suitable in extreme shedding is seen. Fortunately for Gemma, her hair started to grow back last year, though she still wears hair extensions and a hair piece to cover up a couple of patches where her scalp shows through.
Salvation in netball
Gemma’s salvation, however, has been netball. Immersing herself wholeheartedly into the sport, Gemma has found that her hair-related worries have diminished considerably. She helps to run one of the country’s biggest netball clubs – the North Dragons, based at Wrexham’s Glyndwr University – and as well as working with more than 200 members across 10 teams, she is also soon going to Holland to help coach a British team competing there.
“There is no doubt netball has really helped me get over the problems of alopecia,” she tells Wales Online. “I feel I can be myself and have lots more confidence. I work 21 hours a week as a sales assistant at Next and spend the rest of my time coaching netball, I just love it.
“I enjoy my work and I enjoy my netball. And it also means my alopecia is no longer an issue any more.”
Many people with severe cases of Alopecia Areata like Gemma are currently waiting with baited breath to see if the success seen during recent trials into a potential new treatment option can be replicated on a larger scale. In small-scale tests it has shown enormous promise on extreme thinning caused by Alopecia Areata.The caveat, however, is that the treatment is based around a rather potent suite of drugs known as JAK inhibitors, which were originally developed to treat an assortment of serious ailments. Accordingly, they come with the risk of some rather severe side-effects – which may make legal clearance of these drugs for use on people with hair-related disorders a long and laborious process.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.