Dr Christian Jessen
It may seem to many that something of a medical miracle has occurred, rather gloriously, this week: television presenter Gail Porter has revealed a new head of hair, having been totally bald from alopecia for the last five years. It’s cathartic to read a recovery story for a change, as this will be a useful tool for us doctors, who really have very little in our armoury for the fight against alopecia, other than resorting to an only half-believed reassurance that it may well grow back in the future. Not really a very satisfactory prognosis for a woman who has just lost all her head and body hair. But finally here is a living and vocal proof that it does happen.
All the medical textbooks that I have read state that more often than not, alopecia areata usually resolves itself, a fact I’m sure most of us students doubted. But we must once again adjust what we think we know as Gail appeared on television earlier this week with a near-full head of hair.
It’s been estimated that about one in every 10 people will suffer the affects of alopecia at some point in their lives. It can cause total loss of all body and facial hair, alopecia universalis, loss of head hair, alopecia totalis, or diffuse loss in patches, alopecia areata. I think it is true that too many of our normal life processes have been medicalised; menopause, childbirth, ageing and even hair loss are classic examples. Indeed, most hair loss is not a disease either but a perfectly normal process of ageing and/or hormone change. But I agree that there is a fine line between normal and excessive hair loss, and it does cause considerable distress to those suffering from it. A correct diagnosis should be made of patchy hair loss, diffuse shedding and thinning/balding, as the psychological effects can be serious.
Alopecia is an auto-immune condition in which the hair follicles are attacked by the body’s own immune surveillance cells and antibodies form against them, preventing normal growth of hair. Research has found definite genetic influences behind the condition, including four genetic characterisations that appear to play a role in its development. We also know that if one identical twin has the disease, the other twin has a 55 per cent chance of developing it too.
People with immediate family members with alopecia have 10 times the normal risk of developing the disease.
There are plenty of diseases in existence that we seemingly infallible doctors are unable to do much about, but patients talking openly about their issues and how they get round them is vital therapy, better than any tonic the medical profession can provide. It helps to normalise previously stigmatised conditions, and when good news does happen, and a condition like alopecia does spontaneously resolve itself in a public figure, then it offers a therapeutic dose of hope to fellow sufferers.
Alopecia Can Be Beaten
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This entry was posted
on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 10:46 am and is filed under ALOPECIA AREATA, CELEBRITY HAIR LOSS.
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