It’s shocking to comb your hair after a shower and discover a bald spot that wasn’t there the day before.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been — as my Grandpa would say — bald as a cue ball in the past, and losing hair as a result of taking Anastrazole for the last five years. It’s still a shock, and more than a little distressing, as you can imagine by pretending the picture below is of your head rather than mine.
This seemingly random baldness is called Alopecia areata. If I’d lost all the hair on my head, it would have been Alopecia totalis. And complete loss of hair on scalp, face, and body is called Alopecia universalis.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack normal cells, but no one really knows what causes the immune system to do this. (You can learn more here.)
I suspect funding for research is probably limited, perhaps rightly so. After all, no one dies from baldness. And it doesn’t hurt. When you think of the many conditions and diseases that both kill and cause pain, well, to what type of research would you allocate funds?
In the grand scheme of things, losing part of my hair seemed unimportant. And yet, it worried me. What if it never came back? What if I lost it all? What if I lost it all and it never came back?
It happens sometimes. Again, no one knows why
My bald spot was initially the size of a nickel, possibly a quarter, and I addressed the problem by consulting my oncologist about going off Anastrazole. He agreed it couldn’t hurt, especially when I was due to finish my course of the drug that month anyway.
But the bald spot got bigger, so I went to my GP. By this time, of course, I’d done my research (once a librarian, always a librarian) and knew what the standard treatments were: time, topical steroids and possibly Rogaine, followed by steroid injections if those didn’t work.
Sometimes the treatments work. Sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes hair comes back without treatment. And sometimes it doesn’t.
No one knows why.
The spot grew still larger, eventually surpassing the size of a silver dollar.
And me? I was feeling grateful I’d been in the process of growing out my hair and could camouflage the spot.
Yes, I have a comb-over. And like many balding men, I live in fear of wind (not kidding, and please do not make any Donald Trump jokes).
Eventually, I quit messing around and went to the dermatologist, knowing quite well it would mean getting shots in my head.
They weren’t as bad as they sound, at least not the first time, and I actually started to regrow some of my hair. Yay!
But on the second visit, when the PA re-measured the empty spot, it was bigger, so she was a little more aggressive with the needle. Think being stung multiple times — not horrible, but not pleasant either.
On my third visit (last week) we found the baldness hadn’t gotten worse, and my hair was slowly filling in. This time, the shots made my head hurt and itch for an hour or so.
As you can imagine, I’ll be glad if/when this spot fills in completely.
Maybe that will be the end of Alopecia areata for me.
It could come back in another place next month, next year, never.
No one knows.
There’s a 2.1% chance you may develop Alopecia in your lifetime.
I wrote this post to let you know you’re not alone if it does.