Declaration of War – Alopecia’s Surprise Attack On My Body, Part One

I have been writing this blog for three years and as I look back, I realize all that has changed in my life in that time span. One “consistent change” however, have been the different looks that I have sported in this time frame. This has all been to do the disease that I have called Alopecia. More specifically, Alopecia Universalis meaning, that I lose every stitch of hair over my entire body.

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation states:

Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Alopecia areata affects approximately two percent of the population overall, including more than 6.5 million people in the United States alone. This common skin disease is highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person.

Please see: http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_alopecia_intro for more.

It’s really hard to me to remember when it happened. When I was in my mid-20’s, I remember having a bump, similar to a razor bump, that was located at the very top of the back of my head. Since I’ve always had struggles with eczema, scratching my scalp was quite common, and I thought I just had scratched the bump so much, that it ended up causing a dime-sized bald spot in that area. It was still slightly embarrassing, as some of the fellas would “go there” when we were playing the dozens, but it was nothing compared to what would soon come.

Wikipedia_Allopecia_areata
Photo from: Wikipedia

A few years later, around 30, I then lost hair on the right side of the back of my head, just at the hair line (see photo above for an exact example). A dime-sized circle turned into a nickel, which turned into a quarter, then a half dollar. Coin size-value was increasing faster with my bald spot than the interest in my bank account for sure. Then the worst happened, another spot developed just to the left. Then another spot just above the original. I had no idea what was happening as the skin in those areas were the smoothest parts of my body, not one sign of hair ever being there, no “shadow”, no stub, completely smooth. Then the worst happened, the spots became so large that they connected. Now, while the rest of my hair grew as normal, I had this huge area in the back of my head that looked like a beach being eroded at high-tide.

800px-Alopecia_areata
Photo from: Wikipedia

Next, alopecia waged war on a different front, my front hair line. Victory proved easy, following the same progression, patch, patch, connection, gone. Looking back, because of the tremendous amount of stress that I was under in my life, I have no idea how long it took. But the impact on my self-image was severe. I just remember being in college, where as a Sports Medicine major, I was already the “old guy” in the room, and here my hair is falling out in patches like I’m 80 years old or something. But I’ll go into detail on the reactions of others in upcoming posts.

Nov2413
Nose hairs gone (aren’t you glad I spared you that shot?), eyebrows thinning, lower eye lashes thinning…all in the last two weeks

As you can see above, I am writing this on November 24, 2013. I do not know how long it will take for me to complete this series of posts on this condition, but I will take you on a trip with me through yet another battle, or maybe I should say, journey. I’ve given up fighting so many times, so it’s a journey. Then I’ll try a treatment and then it’s a battle. All I know is that just when it gets “easy”, alopecia throws another pitch that I didn’t even know it had in it’s arsenal.

So the disease is attacking my hair follicles again, after being pretty quiet most of 2013. But in less than two weeks, right in time for cold and flu season no less, I’ve lost almost all of my nose hairs. Yes folks, with alopecia, your realize why God placed hair in all those areas we take for granted. That was the first sign that I was under attack. I went from shaving my head nearly every other day (this year I never had full growth, those various thick white strands to shave), to once over the last two weeks. I have not needed to trim my mustache in two weeks either, leading me to estimate that the attack officially began in mid-November.

My main reason for chronicling the progress this time is to help others who may be suffering. As I was doing a bit of research over the last couple of days, there still is not much known about alopecia, and the message-boards are still hot with people saying, “What is happening to me?” and “Will this stop?” There might be some young person in high school getting teased by the kids for having ringworm and being treated like they are “dirty”, when alopecia is behind those developing patches on their head.

For my fellow alopecia folks out there, I know I do not have it as bad as some from a social standpoint. First, I’m a man. Alopecia is exponentially worse for a woman than a man for obvious reasons. Next, I’m an African-American male, and rocking a bald head has always been socially and fashionably acceptable in our community. But in my reading, I’m noticing that we all have different areas that may make “my disease” worst than “your disease”. Yet, in the end, we all appear to go through the trials, like having people stare at us, getting asked if we have cancer or become lab rats for doctors who have no clue what to do or what drug to give to “fix-it”.

In the meantime, if someone has a question or a desire for me to share on a specific area, please email me or let me know in the comment section. Alopecia and I have been warring for nearly 15 years, so while it still may beat me, I can share with you a little bit on how it fights.
CSD

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