What is Alopecia?
In today’s society, hair (particularly a woman’s) is yet another site where society projects notions of what’s beautiful and what isn’t. It’s often termed the crowning glory of any outfit and as individuals the hair on our heads is an intrinsic part of our identities and self-expression. So, when you’re made to feel that your hair is such a central part of who you are, what (on earth) do you do when it starts to fall out in clumps?!
For those of you who haven’t been introduced, meet Alopecia Areata. The notoriously difficult to predict condition which still has medical professionals unsure as to what directly causes it. Despite it’s tricky nature, we’ve done a deep dive into what having Alopecia means, how to identify it, potential causes, complications and what possible treatments are available to help combat it…
First things first it’s important to distinguish that Alopecia is completely unrelated to other more common forms of hair loss. At some point or another in our lives, we have experienced hair loss (or are likely to). Whether it’s being too abrasive when brushing, age related or the infinite list of possible internal causes such as stress, nutrient deficiencies or unbalanced hormones. In contrast, Alopecia is an autoimmune condition that develops when the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles causing the hair to fall out.
This is usually in round or oval patches on the scalp but it can also be present at other places on the body that grow hair such as beards, eyebrows or eyelashes. The condition is most common in women under the age of 30 but it can present itself in a number of different forms in both sexes from total head-hair loss (alopecia totalis) to body-hair loss (alopecia universalis) and even as a result of damaging hair styles (traction alopecia) which is especially common in Black women.
WHAT REALLY CAUSES YOUR HAIR TO FALL OUT WITHOUT WARNING?!
The short answer is: no one seems to know definitively, and concerningly it’s not as rare as you might think, with around 2% of people being affected by Alopecia in their lifetime. There is evidence to suggest that it can be hereditary. If a family member lives with or has experienced this type of hair loss before, you may be more susceptible to the condition. In fact 1 in 5 people that live with Alopecia will have a family member who also has or has had Alopecia in the past, so you may well want to check out some family history!
Alarmingly the condition has also been linked to stress which in today’s stress heavy society is food for thought. Anecdotally those suffering with Alopecia often report their symptoms developing during periods of intense stress or emotional turmoil. The high levels of stress hormones within the body that are produced in response to experiencing a traumatic event or particularly stressful time in your life can act as a trigger. Herein lies one of the cruel ironies of this condition: it’s self-perpetuating.
The symptom of the condition (the hair falling out) causes more stress, and then the said stress (stressing about the hair falling out) exacerbates the condition (causing more hair to fall out!). The stress, coupled with a huge hit to your confidence from losing your hair, is enough to really impact a sufferer’s mental health. The emotional toll from the condition runs incredibly deep, especially in a society that still determines so much of an individual’s value by their appearance. If you’re identifying with this and it’s striking a chord, you may choose to embark on a journey to treat your condition…
For most cases, there’s often no physical ‘need’ to treat Alopecia which sounds slightly odd, given how dramatic the effects of the condition can feel. This is because on the face of it, it’s a purely cosmetic issue: hair loss isn’t life-threatening and has no harmful effects on the body.
However, as we touched on earlier, if you’re starting to suffer psychologically you may want to seek out methods to lessen the symptoms. After all, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Often topical creams and injections (read: steroids) are prescribed to the area but often these only reduce the effects and fail to address the underlying cellular issues at play. Immunosuppressive drugs are also prescribed but cannot be effectively used long-term and often the condition ‘returns’ when the medication is stopped. With this in mind, treatment options for Alopecia are currently somewhat limited, that is until now…
Introducing Exciplex, the pioneering new light therapy treatment for autoimmune skin conditions including Vitiligo. We know what you’re thinking, light therapy can have some unwanted side effects such as premature ageing and even developing cancerous skin cells if not used correctly. The Exciplex innovative hand held technology is backed by over 180 clinical trials and uses ultraviolet light to specifically target individual lesions without affecting the surrounding skin.
The UVB rays penetrate the skin and slows the growth of the affected skin cells leading to treatment of the condition on a cellular level. The narrow treatment window leaves the surrounding skin unaffected, allowing the Exciplex to adhere to the highest safety standards as it eliminates the need to treat healthy cells. Unlike other light therapy treatments on the market, Exciplex treatment sessions are quick and completely pain free. Instead of expensive and time consuming treatment options your trained technician would typically recommend a course of twice weekly treatments which are completed in minutes.
Sounds like a dream come true? Get in touch with us to find your nearest clinic offering the Exciplex treatment and get ready to work your way to being symptom free. If you enjoyed this week’s topic be sure to go back and catch up with the previous installments of our auto-immune series.