A 50-year-old mother of two who managed to lose a phenomenal 17 stone after having gastric sleeve surgery was stunned to find that it wasn’t just the pounds she was shedding but also her hair.
The hair loss was an unexpected result of Mandy Ballard’s new-found slim-line regime, which she committed to in 2011 following a heart attack.
Shock to the system
Weighing a worrying 26 stone at the time, she took the doctors’ advice after the heart attack and set about losing weight.
Her own efforts, combined with the results of gastric surgery, effected a drastic change which saw Mandy drop from a size 32 to a size 10 in the space of just two years.
The horror of her near-death encounter, coupled with the extreme, rapid weight-loss that followed, resulted in patchy hair loss from an autoimmune condition called Alopecia Areata.
“I lost everything from the top and the sides,” Mandy told the Daily Mirror. “I felt really down, but then I got chatting to one of my friends who was going through chemotherapy and had also lost her hair. We joked that we were twins.”
Patchy loss of hair
Alopecia Areata causes the hair to fall out in clumps, presenting as smooth, rounded or oval bald patches which can join up to form larger areas, as can be seen in the photo of Mandy, below.
Characterised by this sudden, patchy loss of hair which can occur anywhere on scalp, and is due to hair follicles suddenly entering the resting phase. As they effectively go into hibernation, shutting down the hair growth cycle, in the affected areas, this hair starts falling out.
What surprises many people is that the medical community cannot conclusively explain why Alopecia Areata strikes, but there are a number of factors which are widely believed to play their part in triggering the condition. Among them are psychological stress, shock and sudden extreme stress, physical trauma and allergies.
In Mandy’s case, the long-term stress on her system caused by being obese, paired with the sudden shock to her body from the gastric sleeve fitting, in addition to suddenly switching to a radically different diet are all likely to be contributing factors.
Generally thinning hair from Telogen Effluvium, a temporary hair loss condition which can often occur as a side-effect of weight loss surgery and may present simultaneously alongside other types of alopecia, could also have compounded the problem.
“I thought losing weight would finally restore my confidence, but the hair loss just made things worse,” says the full-time carer. “I never left the house without a wig on.”
Not knowing if hair will grow back
Alopecia Areata is treatable, though there is no known permanent cure and the condition can recur. What can be especially frustrating for people with Alopecia Areata is that they never know if their hair will grow back again or when that might happen. Sometimes it will regrow naturally within around a year, although this is not always the case.
Typically treatment for alopecia areata involves re-invigorating the hair follicles, stimulating them and increasing blood flow – and therefore nutrient delivery – to the area to coax them out of their dormant phase.
Whilst visiting a dedicated hair loss specialist can help people with the condition understand what is happening to their hair, and manage their expectations with regards regrowth, it is best to do this early on.
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.