Times Online recently published a diary that shows the positive power of the internet with mother of two, Lulu O’Hagan, sharing her experience of hair loss. In July 2008 Lulu’s hair started dropping out in patches over each ear. Her hairdresser is the first to notice and told Lulu it may be alopecia.
Lulu went to see her doctor who diagnoses alopecia areata and informed Lulu it is relatively rare and little is known about how to cure it. Her doctor prescribes a four-month course of steroids – but steroids only work for as long as a patient takes them and can have long-term adverse side effects.
Alopecia areata is charaterised but the sudden patchy loss of hair. In 70% of cases the hair will either grow back or can be treated with proven hair loss treatments. Alopecia areata affects about one person in every 100, mostly teenagers and young adults, and runs in the family in one in five cases. One in five people with alopecia areata may go on to develop a more severe form of hair loss – alopecia totalis (no scalp hair) or alopecia universalis (complete hair loss on the scalp and body). Alopecia areata is a result of an autoimmune disease and has been linked to a number of triggers such as local skin injury, viral or bacterial infection, allergies, chemicals and stress. Stress, however, is often a side effect suffered by the those with the condition which can make matters worse.
In her diary Lulu records what happens to her over the following year and how losing her hair makes her feel inside. In preparation for a West End premiere of her film producer husband’s film she has hair pieces put in at a great expense. But they were so tight she ends up in pain and has to take them out. After cutting her long hair into a bob, in an attempt to thicken it, Lulu realises the bald patches are growing and decides to invest in a top-of-the-range wig, costing her £1,600.
In September Lulu’s hair grows back so she stops taking the steroids but in December, while taking a trip to Thailand, she starts to lose hair again. She decides to have her head shaved. This upsets her 11-year-old daughter and one of her children tells her she looks like an alien. Lucy says, “I am beginning to feel really desperate”.
Lulu she feels worse come January, saying she has gone into a “bit of a decline”. In April she gets to wear her new wig but finds it difficult to put on: “My skin weeps where the tape has come off and the shampoo feels like it’s burning…The glue is the only way to stop the wig moving but it is very strong and my skin is delicate”.
Lulu says she knows she must talk to a counsellor and plans to go to her GP. (She does not say if she did – people who suffer from hair loss often find their GPs unsympathetic and unhelpful). She says, “I don’t really like the bald me… hiding would be easier. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the thought that I may never get my hair back that I can’t breathe.”
By June Lulu’s condition has not improved. “My hair is not growing back and no one knows why. I have spent so much money and I still have no answers”.
Lulu may not have been aware of the range of hair loss treatments available such as those we offer here at the Belgravia Centre. Minoxidil is one of only two treatments proven to prevent and reverse hair loss and can be used successfully by both men and women. It works by increasing the blood circulation to the areas of application. While Minoxidil is only proven to work for genetic hair loss, here at the Belgravia Centre we have had excellent alopecia areata treatment results.
Along with Propecia, which is for men only, Minoxidil is one of only two treatments that has been licensed by the MHRA and ‘FDA-approved’. The MHRA and FDA are the medical regulatory bodies in the UK and USA respectively, so unlike with many of the supplemental hair loss products, you can be sure that minoxidil is one treatment tht you are likely to see results with. In the clinical trials for minoxidil, 65% of men maintained or increased their hair count and 2 out of three women re-grew hair.
Alopecia areata does not always require treatment because in up to 70% of cases, hair will grow back on its own within a year, however in Lulu’s case it has not re-grown and there may be a way of helping the hair re-grow. The first step is to consult a doctor and a hair loss specialist in order to get to the bottom of the condition and find out which method of treatment is right for you.
If you’d like to arrange a free appointment with a hair loss specialist, call the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email. If you can’t make it to the centre, fill in the online diagnostic form for expert knowledge and impartial advice on what would be the best plan of attack for your individual situation.