Newly Diagnosed with Alopecia: What You Need to Know
Alopecia areata occurs when a person’s immune system attacks their hair follicles and causes hair to fall out and stop growing. For a long time, it was thought that stress was the primary cause of alopecia, however, there is very little scientific evidence to support that theory. It is possible that extreme stress triggers alopecia in some people, but a more likely explanation is the presence of specific genes that make a person more susceptible to developing the disease. Other experts theorize that allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, fungal infections, thyroid disorders, hormonal changes, hereditary disorders, viruses, and toxins may be contributing factors.
Regardless of the underlying cause(s), there is no doubt that an alopecia diagnosis can result in emotional challenges, particularly in the beginning. It is especially difficult for girls who grow up with Rapunzel fairy tales and TV commercials exalting the virtues of luxurious locks. Coping with alopecia comes down to finding ways to manage the disease and not allowing it to define you. Many people cope by learning as much as they can about the disease, speaking with others who are facing the same problem, and seeking counseling if necessary to help build a positive self-image. Here are a few facts that may provide some solace.
- Alopecia is not contagious and people with it are generally healthy otherwise.
- For many, being newly diagnosed finally gives a name to having some unexplained hair loss.
- Alopecia is not a physically painful disease and has no impact on life span.
- Once someone has been newly diagnosed with Alopecia, he or she may actually feel a sense of relief.
- Feeling alone is normal, but you certainly are not alone. Roughly 6.5 million people in the US are affected by Alopecia.
- Although it takes time to digest the diagnosis, most people with Alopecia people cab still enjoy a full and productive life.
Family, Friends & Alopecia
While it may feel like you are alone in this struggle with hair loss, it’s important to discuss this with your friends, family, and loved ones, preferably right after you receive a definitive diagnosis. Letting them know how you feel about it and what kind of support you need is important. They aren’t mind readers so don’t be afraid to tell people close to you how they can help.
Surround yourself with love by spending time with generally upbeat and supportive people rather than naysayers. Your spouse, family, and genuine friends won’t treat you differently because they love you for who you are, not for your hair. For some people, alopecia makes them feel less attractive and this can impair relationships with spouses or significant others. Going to therapy or couples counseling can help if you cannot resolve these problems on your own.
Tips from a Husband
Accompany your partner to doctor’s appointments
Be part of the wig buying experience – whether shopping locally or online
Help do research on local resources such as support groups
Provide assurance that you’ll love her regardless of her appearance
Explain the situation to strangers or friends if she feels uncomfortable doing so
Encourage her to express feelings including crying on your shoulder
The bottom line is to be there to encourage, support and love your partner. And this philosophy applies to both men and women who have partners with alopecia.
Coping With Other People
One of the most difficult things to deal with is people staring and making inappropriate remarks, whether strangers or friends. People may assume you are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and that’s why you have hair loss. If somebody is staring at you or says something offensive, feel free to speak up, but try to avoid escalating the situation. While some people are nosy or rude, keep in mind that most are just curious. Part of this is due to the widespread misconceptions about alopecia. The best way to dispel incorrect notions is to explain in simple terms that alopecia is an inflammatory condition that causes hair follicles to stop growing. You can reassure them it is not contagious. If you are comfortable addressing questions or comments, go ahead and do so. You can also just walk away if you are feeling overly emotional or sense the situation may spiral out of control.
Many people find it helpful to talk to other people who are dealing with the challenges of living with alopecia. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) offers a pen pal program, message boards, annual conference, and support groups that meet in various locations across the country. If you feel comfortable discussing your feelings with other people with alopecia, the NAAF Support Group Program is likely an ideal fit for you. If you are reserved or shy, you might be more comfortable writing to others via the NAAF Pen Pal Program.
Helpful Alopecia Hair Loss Products
Natural-looking wigs: Many people with alopecia find it helpful to wear a high quality wig or hairpiece. Whether you select a long or short wig, one crafted from real hair or synthetic –hairpieces and wigs are an excellent solution. Wearing a wig is a good option whether your hair loss is partial or complete.
Make-up and Lotion: If there are small patches of hair loss, a hair-colored powder, cream, or crayon applied to the scalp helps mask it. This is achieved by eliminating the contrast between the hair and the scalp. Skillfully applied eyebrow pencil is useful for filling in missing eyebrows. If you need help learning these techniques, ask your doctor or a person in your local support group for the name of a beautician who specializes in customized make-up solutions for people with hair loss. It’s also important to protect your scalp, face and any exposed skin with sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Nostril hair protects delicate nasal passages from foreign particles and collects extra moisture. For people with alopecia, applying a moisturizing ointment in the nose can help prevent debris from entering the nose.
False eyebrows and eyelashes: Some people with alopecia don’t want to bother applying eyebrow pencil and miss having eyelashes. False eyebrows and eyelashes are perfect options for alopecia-related hair loss. They are realistic-looking and cost-effective, as well as easy to apply. Fake eyebrows take far less time and skill to apply than eyebrow pencil.
Scarves and Hats: Our fashionable hats and scarves for women offer a comfortable, trendy option. Our men's hats and caps are both soft as well as stylish. Children with alopecia may prefer to wear hats or baseball caps than wigs. Our hats for kids come in so many beautiful patterns, colors, fabrics, and styles … there is something to fit everyone’s style, and children and adults alike love them.
Although there is no cure for alopecia, being informed about its different aspects can help you better understand and manage the disease. The most important coping mechanism is to value yourself for who you are, not for your hair or lack thereof!
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