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What Caused Footballer Damien Delaney’s Bald Patch?

Damien Delaney Bald Patch - Alopecia Areata?

Delaney’s patch of hair loss photographed in February 2016

People often get confused about different types of hair loss, occasionally mixing up the genetic condition Male Pattern Baldness with the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata.

The latter condition really couldn’t be more different – as Crystal Palace centre back Damien Delaney seemed to be demonstrating during this weekend’s FA Cup Final.

Evidence of Alopecia Areata?

Unless the hard-working 34-year-old has shaved a tiny bald spot onto the back of his head, pictures seen on social media and live match coverage over the past few months clearly seem to show evidence of Alopecia Areata.

Normal Hair Growth Cycle versus Hair Growth in Alopecia AreataUnlike male pattern hair loss, which affects millions of men and is seen as a gradual, general thinning (often leading to baldness) around the top of the head, particularly at the crown and temples, Alopecia Areata more typically affects specific patches anywhere on the head.

While Delaney’s bald spot is indeed on the back of his head – not too far from where MPB can strike – its clearly-defined nature and location rule it out as Male Pattern Baldness.

But if Delaney’s bald patch is indeed Alopecia Areata, what caused it? To speculate about that, it first makes sense to understand a little more about the condition…

Alopecia Areata happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly perceives healthy cells in the scalp as ‘enemy’ cells and starts attacking them. The hair growth cycle then effectively suspends activity, lying dormant until it believes it is safe to resume normal hair production.

In some cases the hair loss – which comes on suddenly – can be as small as a single, coin-sized patch; in others it can be bigger patches spread over the whole head. In many cases it will clear up on its own, never to reappear, in others it can be a troublesome condition that comes and goes multiple times. When the hair does regrow, it may also return without any pigment so that the hair appears white or cream in colour. The normal hair colour tends to restore itself naturally within a few hair growth cycles.

Most vexing of all is the question: why me? Alopecia Areata is still something of an enigma with researchers constantly trying to get to the bottom of why it happens, the precise cause remains unknown. Doctors do, however, believe that there is at least one underlying issue behind all cases of this autoimmune disorder.

Suspected triggers

There is quite a long list of suspected triggers for Alopecia Areata, including physical trauma, local skin injury, allergies and hormones. Commonly blamed, however, is psychological long-term stress, and it certainly wouldn’t be unkind or unrealistic to suggest that Delaney’s career has been a challenging one.

In a pre-Cup interview with the Guardian, Delaney spoke of his struggles as a professional player, the low-point of his career being the time he walked away from four mostly gloomy years at Queen’s Park Rangers and Ipswich Town in 2012.

I just lost faith,” he told the Guardian. “I told myself it would change eventually but each time a new manager came in at any of the clubs he was worse than the last one. It was just going nowhere.”

The article describes a tough player who has had a less than easy stint in professional football, and the stress of finally making it to the FA Cup Final can only have piled on the pressure.

The good news is that Alopecia Areata can be treated, and the prognosis is especially good when it affects such a small area, as appears to be the case with Delaney. At Belgravia we have seen many clients with similar bald patches experience encouraging – and often full – regrowth from using recommended formulations of high strength minoxidil which is applied directly to the affected area daily.

As well as the correct medication, addressing lifestyle issues – such as stress, diet and even smoking and drinking – can all help the body achieve a healthy balance, which is something the hair loss specialists at Belgravia discuss with clients during their private consultations.

The Belgravia Centre Hair Loss Clinic - Hair Loss Specialist ConsultationThe 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.

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