True Life: I Was Diagnosed With Alopecia Areata

by Tori

alopecia areata natural hair 4

Typically, when people hear the term Alopecia the first things that come to mind are tight ponytails, tight braids, missing edges, etc. This is known as Traction Alopecia, a “small or localized hair loss area caused by repetitive or persistent pulling or force on hair roots” (Cole, 2014).

General Information

There are several other types of alopecia that someone can be diagnosed with.  One type is known as Alopecia Areata, a common disease that causes hair loss on the scalp or the rest of the body. The three types of Alopecia Areata are: Alopecia Areata (hair loss that occurs as various smooth patches), Alopecia Areata Totalis (total hair loss on the scalp), and Alopecia Areata Universalis (hair loss from the entire scalp and body). “In all forms of Alopecia Areata, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. In all cases, hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and even after many years.” Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease; the person’s own immune system mistakenly attacks their hair follicles causing a halt in the hair growth stage. It is not life threatening but occurs suddenly, has an unpredictable course and can recur even after treatment, in any age, gender, or race. (About Alopecia, 2014)

How I Was Diagnosed

When I started my hair journey, all I wanted was healthier relaxed hair. So, I would ‘stretch’ my relaxers to minimize how often I relaxed each year. I was on a long-term stretch in 2011 (the goal was to go 6 months without a relaxer), when I noticed a small, smooth area on my scalp.

alopecia areata natural hair 2 I first thought that this was from the permanent part I had down the middle of my head, or that was caused from the half-wig I occasionally wore as a protective style. I also wondered if the spot was related to life’s stresses. In about 2 weeks, the small area got progressively larger. I had stopped wearing the half-wig and was extremely careful about how I styled and handled my hair, but that one small bald spot continued to get bigger and bigger.

alopecia areata natural hair 3

Then, a week or so later, I found two more spots on different areas of my scalp. It was then that I knew something wasn’t right and I decided to go to the doctor.

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When I visited the dermatologist, he took a biopsy of my scalp from one of the bald areas and the results showed that I had Alopecia Areata.

Outcome

After initially finding out, I was devastated. According to everything I first read on the Internet, I thought the condition would progress and I would lose all my hair. However, I immediately relied on my faith and thankfully, things did not get a whole lot worse. The spots I found got bigger; however, with the help of cortisone injections to my scalp (in the bald areas), those areas started re-growing.

As of today, I haven’t found any other bald spots. However, I still worry that they may re-occur. Because my hair is so thick, it is often hard to check every area of my scalp for other possible bald spots. Regardless, I am thankfully that my experience was not worse and that I was able to get treatment to resolve the situation. Another positive outcome from my experience was that being diagnosed was one of the contributing factors to me going natural. Alopecia Areata may not be related to hair relaxers, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t adding any outside elements that would increase hair loss or affect my scalp any further.

Having a form of Alopecia Areata doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose all your hair. I’m living proof (Thank God).
Were you diagnosed with Alopecia Areata? What has your experience been like? Feel free to share your story if you feel comfortable.

About Tori: I’m Tori, a Jamaican-born natural currently living in Texas. I was reunited with my natural texture in January 2012 when I big chopped, after transitioning for a year and a half. I am still learning about my natural hair, and hope to share the knowledge and experiences I gain as I continue on my natural hair journey. You can find me on Instagram @bonafidestyle.

References:

About Alopecia Areata | Types of Alopecia Areata – National Alopecia Areata

Foundation. (2014, January 1). About Alopecia Areata | Types of Alopecia Areata – National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_alopecia_types

Cole, G. W. (2014, January 1). Hair Loss Symptoms, Causes, Treatment – What is traction alopecia? –

MedicineNet. MedicineNet. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

http://www.medicinenet.com/hair_loss/page3.htm

Editorial

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27 thoughts on “True Life: I Was Diagnosed With Alopecia Areata

  1. When my daughter was younger I found 5 spots in her head like yours. One spot was about the size of quarter. This was years ago, I never heard of the word alopecia anything.
    I did ask my stylist he told me to make a appointment with my doctor for a fungus test. Make sure to ask for nizoroal (?). What was interesting is the doctor said oh no it’s not a fungus. Blah blah blah. That’s when I said look my stylist said……. Fungus. She went and got a medical book. Lol. Did the test, it’s fungal. You need to cut all her hair off and use this cream nizoroal. What!! Her hair was long and dense. She also had to take pills.

    I put the cream all over everyday they also gave me the shampoo proscription ( now you can get over the counter). I slowly start seeing the hair return. At the check up they could not believe I would not cut her hair off.

    My stylist told me in the future be very careful with hair gel & water and binding the hair together because sometime it does not dry fast enough causing a fungus. He had seen it many times and clearly recognized it. To this day I’m very careful about opening my hair up yo dry partly and when my daughter wears weave I’m remind her to make sure her hair is dry ASAP.

    • I don’t know how they test for alopecia but for fungus they took a scraping from the scalp and sent it to a lab. My daughter spots look just like pictures above some bigger. They said it would have covered her whole head. So glad I pushed the doctor to look into what my stylist
      Thought it was. Hope this helps someone who has not entertained the idea that it could be fungus. Esp. If they have been using lots of gel, wearing weaves, and wigs.

  2. I was diagnosed with alopecia areata in September 2010 after a relaxer followed two weeks later by a black rinse. As I never had a rinse before, I figured it was a combination of the two. The hair over more than 75% of my head was down to nothing but peach fuzz. My doctor’s office had me on sick leave for three weeks while I did nothing to my hair but use moisturizing shampoo and conditioning with no styling or covering over my hair during the day. This did help, but when the WM dermatologist they sent me to did nothing, I had to go back to work and have been covering my head with wigs, scarves, hats and twists ever since. My hair has yet to grow back after trying everything except the cortisone shots.

    • I do not know your race and this is not to discriminate. However, when I was originally diagnosed in middle school the doctors told me to wash my hair daily. They gave me steroid pills and a cream. Keep your scalp clear of oils etc. Well we listened to the doctors and my hair went from down my back to barely at the nape of my neck. With no results.

      We went to a black specialist and he grew my hair back with no problem. He stated we need oil and certain things for our scalp. He suggested I use T-Gel shampoo weekly and do a great conditioner. Oil hair as usual.

      Hope this information is useful.

  3. My little sister was sadly diagnosed with this condition and is completely bald. It is hard to watch her because her self confidence is gone and she is ashamed to even to wear wigs. She is only 12 so it is hard to find a wig that fits her proprely. Just a few days ago some boy in her class pulled her wig off in front of everyobe . I pray her hair grows back but if it does not I tell her everyday that she is beautiful and it does not make a difference, but now it just bounces off her ears. Any advice?

    • Try miconazole nitrate. I’ve never had alopecia but it helped my hair grow very much. Please try it. Get it from walmart for 5 dollars. Apply it every other day. Research it if you need more understanding. Bullying is terrible and can have long term impacts on a child. I know because my sister and I went through it in middle school. it still affects my sister to this day. It’s worth giving a try.

    • Hello! I’m so sorry to hear about your little sister’s condition. Most of these conditions must be treated from the inside out. If you live near a Chinatown, I would suggest you take your little sister to one of the pharmacies in there. The pharmacist may give you a mix of herbs for her to drink. China has some of the best medicine in the world. Also if you’re not close to a Chinatown, there is an African website that sells herbal medicine. It is based in Uganda. The website is blackherbals.com. I was diagnosed with a similar condition and my mother’s relatives sent medicine for me from Africa. I’m seeing improvement in my scalp. American medicine only masks the issues of the condition. Hope this helps! God bless your sister!

      • I don’t want to offend anyone, however I must say be extremely cautious if you plan to consult “herbal remedies” from any part of the world, whether China, Africa or anywhere else. China, among other nations, has a well-known reputation for animal poaching in order to use the animals parts for medicine and cooking. This is illegal.
        Also, I would never advise anyone to seek help from anything claiming to have ‘healing qualities’. Steer well clear! Personally, I believe that healing can only come from Jesus Christ. Seeking healing from other sources could invite unwanted spirits to enter your life. Please stick to legal, tested products that you trust and can be verified.

        I myself am suffering from Trichotilomania, a hair-loss disorder caused by pulling hair out from the root. So I know first-hand the psychological and physical effects of hair-loss. For myself the condition is mainly psychological, which means that no amount of medicine or cream can make the problem go away. My hair can grown back if I let it, but the issue will still be there. I must deal with what’s on the inside and target the root cause.

        I’m saying this with a lot of love because I don’t want us ladies to make decisions we might regret later – especially when it comes to decisions we make for our children.

    • Not to be rude, but ignore the medical advice from the posters below. Putting Vagisil on your sister’s head might worsen her condition if her skin is sensitive or she’s sucesptible to migraines, and traditional Chinese medicine sometimes has nasty stuff in it that isn’t safe for a child to ingest. Just being real.

      I know you said that you tell her that she’s beautiful and she ignores it….but what about showing her that she’s beautiful? If you can, why not schedule a “girl’s day” where you both do all of her favorite things together. Point out her strengths and skills (ex: “Wow, you are such a great artist, I could never paint like that!”), and emphasize how they lend to making her a beautiful person. Play her some neo-soul (if she doesn’t hate it lol), and let India Arie tell her that she is not her hair. Maybe ditch the wigs and buy her some cute hats, beanies, and scarves to compliment her personal style. Teach (or learn with) her how to tie a bomb turban.

      Medical treatments might fix the problems on the outside, but it sounds like your little sister’s main ailment is a lack of self-love. I feel like most girls at that age have a really rough time with self-love and self-esteem; I remember hating my life a lot at that age because I was bullied too. Just be there for her like you have been, and keep reinforcing to her that she is not just the sum of her parts, even when it seems like she’s not listening. You never know, it might be helping her more than you think.

  4. I have had alopecia areta for nearly 20 years now. As described in your article I have went through the treatment off and on for many years. The blessed part about my situation I always had hair to cover my spots.

    Since having my son 5 years ago my alopecia areta is extremely bad. I have left maybe a small mohawk. This is the 2nd time seeing such massive loss since having my child. The first time I received steroid shots and my hair grew back entirely. This go around I have been living with it only because I’m discouraged and I do not see how healthy it is to have that much steroid injected in your body monthly. Hopefully I will meet a specialist who can provide me additional knowledge.

    I do know not everyone’s hair grow back. I have personally experienced my hair growing back without treatment. For now I will continue to have Faith and thank those around me who supports me with my self-esteem and roller-coaster emotional turmoil I have because of the alopecia.

    • Hi, Kris:

      I have not had alopecia as badly as you, but I do have alopecia as well (non-diagnosed). Have you tried altering your diet? I started doing raw till 4 for about 2-3 months and I see improvement in the areas of my hair that were bald. If you’re interested, you can look it up on the internet and youtube, but in a nutshell, you would go on a vegan diet (ital if you’re Jamaican/West Indian), but eat only raw foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, water) until dinnertime, then have a cooked vegan meal. Of course, if things are really bad, and you’re up for it, you could go fully raw. Many people have reversed a lot of diseases that even doctors could not help with by going raw. I know it’s not for everyone, since you’d have to give up meat, fish/seafood, eggs, dairy, processed oils (and salt). But, if you’re really trying to improve your health, I think you should give it a shot. Try it for 30 days. What’s to lose? A dozen hamburgers? You didn’t need ’em anyway. lol. I pray that you have a full and speedy recovery. Blessings.

  5. I was diagnosed with alopecia early fall last year. I first noticed a small patch around my forehead area and then it got increasingly bigger within a few weeks. Wearing my hair pulled back into a ponytail was not an option anymore. The dermatologist I went to treated it as a fungus. He prescribed me shampoo and cream that wrecked havoc on my hair. After a few weeks with no progress I stopped the treatment and went for a second opinion. They biopsied my scalp and then I was finally diagnosed. I had the cortisone injections for 5 months and saw growth in all the other areas that were bald but not much progress where the initial bald spot started. I’ve had my pity parties I must admit but have been grateful that I can usually hide most of the spots. I just found out I’m pregnant so I decided to stop the injections even tho the doc says it’s safe. I’m hoping the pregnancy will halt the hair loss in its tracks. I’ve heard that there is a 50/50 chance that the alopecia gets worse or better when pregnant. Prayers prayers prayers :)

  6. my hair balds in patches like that when i’m stressing out very badly. after the stress is away, it starts to grow back.

  7. Hi Tori, I empathize with you. I am not sure if what I have is alopecia, but I have balding edges and it doesn’t seem to improve even though I never wear tight hairstyles nor braids or weaves. Overall, I also have a pretty healthy lifestyle. My mother, also has balding edges so that must be genetic. We are not quite sure what to do about it and as a student, I am not in a position to spend lots of money on dermatologists or treatments that may not work.

    It’s too bad that as women (and especially black women), we have come to value ourselves based on how pretty we look. One the contrary, guys like Sam Jackson or Bruce Willis don’t seem to have less sucess because they are bold. How fair is that?! :-)

    Whenever you have time, you might want to check out this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJwmwjkCN6o) of Sanah Shivani, the founder of natural day. She became bald due to a hair loss disease and learned to accept herself in spite of her difference.

    Good luck ;-)

    Cathy

  8. I’m currently going through he same thing. I had a baby in May 2013. When I got pregnant I found out I have lupus. I started losing patches of hair after delivery. I went to the dermatologist because I had smooth patches with no hair in my scalp. I was prescribed nizoral shampoo and a topical steroid. I still have not seen growth in one area. I was told that it might not grow back and that my body may have attacked my hair follicles which I why it’s missing. I have to wear my hair off my face going straight back so it’s not noticeable. The other spots have grown back and I’m praying that u see some growth in this area also. Nice to know I’m not the only one Dealing with this.

  9. You’re in my prayers – all of you. I had several bouts of alopecia areata in 2009 when I was relaxed. It was a stressful time in my life. I began noticing more hair than usual in my comb; I gently tugged areas over my scalp to locate the area of ‘breakage’, I freaked out when a little tuft came out! My hair grew back and fell out several times after going to the dermatologist for triamcinolone injections. He advised me to stop relaxing, yeah the MD was a WM. I think the largest spot got about 2+ inches wide. My smooth spots were out of sight, at the back and left side of my scalp. I had a workup for Sarcoidosis by the primary care doctor who referred me to the dermatologist.

    Prayer, medicine and using root touch up stick helped me maintain my sanity. No one ever knew. Also consider Jerome Russell hair color spray. It’s available for $3-$4 US at many BSS.

    Hope this helps!

  10. I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata a few years back while I was unknowingly transitioning (I had stopped perming my hair for several months thinking that it was the cause of my bald spots). I had two quarter sized bald spots on either side of my head behind my ears that were getting bigger. I received the cortisone injection and a spray from my doctor. My hair started growing back and then fell out again a few months later. I used different hair growth products and stopped messing with my hair all together, just wearing hats all the time and then the hair started to grow and then fell out again. I then started to do some more research online and found out that some cases of alopecia can be linked to iron deficiency or anemia, which I’d had for a while. I just never thought that anemia was a big deal since my doctors did not make it seem as such. I started taking One a Day Women’s, it has many of the vitamins that women’s bodies might not get enough of including iron which we lose during our periods, and trying to eat more iron rich foods, mostly greens. My hair hasn’t fallen out since and has even gotten thicker, so make sure you are getting enough iron and other vitamins and nutrients. Also excersing helps to let your blood transport nutrients to where they need to be. Hope this helps!

  11. Thank you for this article! Just 2 weeks ago, my coworker noticed the bald spot in the middle of my head (I have relaxed hair and usually wear a wrap style). I immediately thought it was the color, I hade highlights done about 3 months ago. I had a ponytail bun for a week and though the tightness pulled my hair. However, next few days I notice the spot got bigger and found 3 more spots on my scalp (another one in middle and one at the crown). I went to dermatologist and she diagnosed me with Alopecia Aretea, administer the cortizone shots to my scalp and prescribed an ointment to be used daily. My beautician told me not to worry and to apply cinnamon oil to the bald areas and that my hair will grow back. I became obsessed for the past 2 week with reading blogs and comments on AA and became depressed. I know everyone has a different experience so I have decided to fight this and hopefully win. I plan on goin natural gradually and will no longer apply heat only if really necessary. Hopefully, the hair grows back and the patches dont get bigger. I will continue to have faith and also maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  12. I ‘m dealing with this condition….onion juice mixed jbco applied on bald spot around edges filling in and thicker.

  13. I was diagnosed also, about 4 years ago. The first time I had 2 spots, and got them treated with the cortizone injections she mentioned. A few years later while on deployment, I had about 5-6 different spots in my head. I as unable to get the injections then but the hair grew back on it’s own after some time. I am just happy they are not all localized in one spot so it’s not too noticeable. I am considering going natural ( possibly BC-ing) and one of my biggest fears is having another “outbreak” and having a patchy head. Hopefully they are gone forever, because I cannot figure out what triggers them.

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