Alopecia: What You Need to Know
It’s an illness that we have likely seen in passing on television or in books, but it isn’t one that is widely talked about or even taught in schools. A surprisingly small percentage of the population actually suffer from it, making it an uncommon disease, but still one that exists and impacts the lives of millions. Alopecia may not be a prevalent condition, but it is one that we should all learn more about; both for ourselves, and for loved ones who may be suffering from it.
What is Alopecia?
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease, and can be further classed as a chronic inflammatory condition. This means that your immune system sees your hair follicles as a foreign body and begins to attack them in order to protect you. This causes them to die, and your hair to fall out as a result. It is typically painless, although you may experience a red/sore scalp, and if you lose your lashes and brows, there is increased risk of debris getting into your eyes. Here are the main types of alopecia:
- Alopecia areata. Patchy baldness that affects the head only.
- Alopecia totalis. Complete baldness on the head only.
- Alopecia universalis. Complete baldness across the entire body, including lashes and brows.
What Causes Alopecia?
The direct cause for alopecia is currently unknown as there doesn’t seem to be a common variable within those who have it. Currently, the leading theories are that it is caused by genetics, environment, or a combination of both. When we refer to the environment, it often means things like stress, anxiety, general mental health, or other conditions.
Much of the time, alopecia will find its way through families, and it can impact men, women, and children, with no discrimination towards age. Currently, research is ongoing to try and determine an exact cause for alopecia. It should be noted that there are some medications that can cause it as well.
Is there a Cure?
The short answer is no; there is no cure. There are a number of treatments out there that can improve regrowth or seem to help with the symptoms, but none of them is able to cure it. Of course, research is still going on to see if there is any way to reverse the effects of the illness, but autoimmune conditions are difficult to treat, with stem cells being the only way forward.
The Emotional Impact
The emotional impact of alopecia varies from person to person, but there are quite a few common factors that you will find. All we can do is support those with the disease as best we can, and encouraging therapy sessions often leads to better coping. Here are some of the ways in which alopecia affects sufferers:
- Fear of going outside and socialising
- Reluctance to go outside and exercise
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
- Lack of confidence and self-esteem
- Over or under eating
- Poor performance at work and lack of motivation
- Distress when not able to recognise yourself (it can change the way you look substantially)
Hopefully, this has been able to teach you more about alopecia and the way in which it can impact those who have it. It’s certainly not the easiest condition to have much of the time, but with kindness and understanding from those around them, sufferers are able to have a much easier time coping with the condition. If you want to learn more about alopecia and the way it can affect people, we have a detailed guide to the topic that you can read through.