The patchy hair loss caused by Alopecia Areata can be traumatic for adults to cope with, let alone children. But Portsmouth teenager Emma Turner, who was diagnosed with alopecia at 16 years of age, is using her experience to help support others.
Alopecia areata is a fairly common hair loss condition which makes the hair fall out in patches. Although the precise cause is unknown, it is thought to be an auto-immune condition and it can be triggered by stress or sudden shock.
As with many alopecia sufferers, Emma, whose brother James plays football for Southampton, was confused as to what was happening when she first developed the condition:
‘From a young age we always joked about how I had a bit of a funny hairline, but we never thought anything more of it. When I was 16 I found a pound coin-sized lump of hair had fallen out and I had a little bald patch.'
‘It got bigger and another one appeared on the other side of my head. I showed my parents and we were confused by what was happening.'
Emma's type of alopecia only affects the scalp, although other more severe forms - alopecia totalis and universalis - can cause hair loss of the head (scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes) or the whole body, respectively. Alopecia areata causes the hair follicles to lie dormant, waiting for signals from the body to resume normal hair production. This means that hair may grow back naturally although it is not known if or when this may happen.
Emma, who is training to become a veterinary nurse, says she has come to terms with her diagnosis, but has chosen not to explore treatment for alopecia.
She says, ‘The hair loss is unpredictable, so I lose it but then it can also start to grow back again. I was told I could go on steroids to try and help. Other than my alopecia there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m healthy, so I don’t see why I should take medication that could affect me in another way.'
Although steroids are one option for treating alopecia areata, the side effects can cause discomfort. Another treatment option is the topical application of minoxidil, a pharmaceutical hair loss product medically-proven to treat genetic hair loss, which has also produced significant results in regrowing hair lost to alopecia.
Wigs are now Emma's go-to option to cover her hair loss and make her feel more confident. She reveals, ‘I was really devastated when it all happened. I’m a young girl and of course love to dress my hair. But wearing a wig means I can do that and it makes me feel comfortable and get a boost of confidence from it. I can take my wig off still and always do when I get home.'
After finding a lack of support available when she was diagnosed, Emma, now 19, has set up a support group through the charity Alopecia UK with the help of her mum, Jackie Ward-Prowse, pictured here with Emma.
She explains, ‘...I want to give other people the same sort of confidence and that they don’t feel judged. For me, the biggest thing I felt after my diagnosis was how there wasn’t anyone to talk to who had gone through something similar.’
Jackie said: ‘I’m so proud of Emma and how she is handling all of this. We want to start a support group for people suffering hair loss and if they want to come to our March meeting then they can.’
For details of how to join Emma and Jackie's alopecia support group, email: email@example.com
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.