For people with untreatable forms of hair loss
, such as the most extreme types of Alopecia Areata
, peer support can be an invaluable tool.
Just being able to discuss aspects of autoimmune-related baldness with others who are going through the same thing, and knowing you're not alone, can be hugely buoying.
Awareness campaigner and long-time alopecian, Nichola McAvoy
has taken this idea and developed a convenient solution for those coping with Alopecia Areata: an app.
Alopecia friend-finder app
McAvoy grew up with a friend who had also lost her hair to Alopecia Universalis
, the most severe form of Alopecia Areata. This causes a person's body to reject all hair follicles from head to toe, leaving them completely hairless.
She has created an app which allows people with Alopecia Areata to find friends who also have the condition. The strength she, and her friend also called Nicola, drew from having each other to lean on was the inspiration behind the project. Continues below...
“People can try to understand, but they don’t get it,”
Nicola told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I drew on that experience of me and Nicola experiencing so much together, and how important it is to have somebody that knew exactly what you were going through.”
The free app is named Ally - friend finding for people with alopecia - and can be downloaded from the App Store for iOS users aged 17 years and over. In addition to the various types of Alopecia Areata, other hair loss conditions
are also listed, including scarring alopecia, also known as Cicatricial Alopecia
. This is where permanent hairloss is caused as a result of inflammation, whether underlying or directly - from burns or radiotherapy, for example. Continues below...
Hair loss support
For those looking for other forms of support, hair loss charities
can be a great resource. Alopecia UK
, for example, has a large community across the country, whilst other regional groups, including the North-East-based Woman Warriors by Panache Group
, are also active in helping those affected and raising general awareness of the condition.
Alopecia Areata in all its forms occurs when the hair growth cycle is disrupted causing sudden hair loss; the body mistakenly attacks its own hair follicles, leading to these becoming 'stuck' in the resting phase of the cycle. In many cases of the scalp-only form, the patchy hair loss it causes will generally regrow naturally within 12 months; the more extensive the areas affected, however, the lesser chance there is of this happening.
Alopecia Areata treatment
is currently only particularly effective for the scalp-only form, though many breakthrough therapies
are in the latter stages of development for the more expansive phenotypes, Alopecia Totalis and Universalis. It is hoped that by 2022
there will be FDA-approved and hopefully MHRA-licensed options to treat all the various kinds of autoimmune alopecia
, in medically-suitable adults.