What may surprise you is that alopecia is actually a very uncommon condition, and surprisingly few people in the world will every contract it. As a result, there is not nearly enough education on the condition, or what causes it. So, when people with alopecia are spotted on the streets, or in the supermarket, the natural assumption for many is that they have cancer. To help you better understand what alopecia is about, here are five key facts that you should definitely know.
Alopecia is an Autoimmune Disease
Yes, it is an autoimmune condition. What this means is that the immune system sees your hair follicles as a foreign body that is trying to harm you. As a result, it attacks and kills them, which leads to your hair falling out. It can also be classed as a chronic inflammatory disease, and there are three main types:
- Alopecia areata. Partial hair loss and patchiness on the head only.
- Alopecia totalis. Total hair loss on the head only. No patchiness.
- Alopecia universalis. Complete hair loss across the whole body, including lashes and brows.
It Can Affect Anyone
Alopecia doesn’t discriminate, and it can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. There is also no exact cause, as experts haven’t been able to pinpoint what triggers the condition. Currently, it is thought that it is caused by the environment you are in (so, things like stress) or genetics. Sometimes, it can be a combination of both.
There is No Cure
Currently, there is no known cure for alopecia. There are some treatments available, but none of them will cure the condition. This is especially true for those under the age of 16, as the available treatments are not suitable for use alongside puberty. There are also some who may experience remission, where the symptoms leave, and the hair grows back naturally. However, the hair will almost always fall out again later.
It Can Have a Huge Emotional Impact
The emotional impact that alopecia can have on a person is huge. Losing all of your hair can change the way you look, and some people don’t even recognise themselves in the mirror anymore. It can be distressing, and horrific to go through, but the best thing is to seek help through counselling or group therapy sessions. Here are some of the things people with alopecia tend to experience:
- Lack of self-esteem and confidence
- Depression and anxiety
- Self-harm and suicidal behaviour
- Not wanting to go outside for fear of being seen
- Over or under eating
- Lack of motivation and productivity
- Not seeing a doctor or treating general illness
In Children, it is Best to Contract it Young
While it is awful for any child to end up with alopecia, studies have shown that it is better for it to develop before the age of six. This is because children in that age range are more accepting because they are less aware of physical differences. So, it is good for everyone as they learn to understand the child with the condition. After the age of six, physical appearance becomes more important, and differences are more likely to be noticed.
Hopefully, this has helped you to learn more about what alopecia is, how it impacts people, and a little more about what causes it. While it isn’t as serious as other autoimmune conditions, the impact on your mental health can be severe, and the fact that there is no cure can add to feelings of depression and worthlessness. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from alopecia, it is important to know that there is help and support out there. Plus, if you want to read more about the condition, there is a detailed guide on the topic you can read.