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Dealing With Alopecia, Take Control Of Your Hair Loss

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Dealing With Alopecia, Take Control Of Your Hair Loss
June 30
12:13 2016

The idea of hair loss can be frightening, an outcome we would do anything to avoid.

We use everything from creams to vitamins and hair products to extensions, dreading the idea of losing such a defining attribute. But what if hair loss is completely out of our control, and we face the challenge of treating both our hair and ourselves?

Dr. Janice Liao of the Dermatology and Hair Transplant Centre in Edmonton said there are many different types of hair loss.

Alopecia is simply defined as hair loss, but it has variations. Alopecia Areata Monolocularis can describe baldness in only one spot; Alopecia Areata Multilocularis refers to hair loss in multiple areas; and Alopecia Totalis is total scalp hair loss.

To deal with each type of hair loss, all patients must be diagnosed by a dermatologist. This will help them distinguish the problem and seek treatment. In rare cases, a biopsy may be required.

“The most common cause of hair loss for females is that their iron is low because menstruation causes a lot of blood loss,” said Dr. Liao. “Another cause is thyroid problems, and the third can be caused when women go on a crash diet, losing about 20 pounds in about three or four months, causing the hair to fall out.”

After the diagnosis, Dr. Liao may refer the patient to another doctor to hopefully get things back to normal, which may include dealing with iron deficiency and thyroid problems. But is “back to normal” a promise? Is there always the possibility of returning to your former self, and how long will it take?

“If they come to me, they’re fairly insecure,” said Dr. Liao. “So what I do is that I will tell them, I will start [an] investigation, do a whole lot of blood tests, do other things and see what’s happening. And out of all of those things, if there’s nothing wrong after the blood tests, then I will advise them what to eat, what to do to feel their best.”

But is this always the case? Dr. Liao advises that sometimes her patients have hair loss because they’re pulling on their hair, often treating their hair with dye or extensive harsh treatments, causing thinning and forcing the hair to break.

Dealing With Alopecia, Take Control Of Your Hair Loss

Dealing With Alopecia, Take Control Of Your Hair Loss

For the past five years, Dr. Liao’s patient Sabrina* has undergone regular treatments, and she doesn’t see it changing anytime soon.

“I’m still losing my hair, and it gets a little worse, and it sort of gets a little better, but it’s never completely gone away,” said Sabrina. “I’ve always had some hair loss, but the alternative, by not going, I don’t want to know… is that going to be worse? I’d rather just go and hope that it’s helping than the alternative and have my hair really fall out.”

At 46 years old, Sabrina’s visits are due to her condition—Discoid Lupus Erythematosus—causing hair loss and skin inflammation. Originally, Sabrina thought the bald spots behind her ears were caused by her eyeglasses, but after visiting Dr. Liao and conducting a biopsy, she found the cause and has been treating it ever since, visiting her doctor every four to six weeks for a treatment that includes steroid scalp injections.

According to the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation (CANAAF), alopecia treatment options include topical and intralesional steroids. In the case that steroids fail or hair loss is too extensive, the next usual treatment is contact sensitization with DPCP.

Other treatments include Anthralin, Protopic and Minoxidil, and sometimes oral treatments may be required. Despite Sabrina’s regular visits, she is optimistic about her condition.

“I’m really very fortunate; my hair is such that it’s thick and has a bit of wave to it, so because of my hairstyle, people don’t realize that I have these bald spots,” said Sabrina. “I’ve been able to thankfully hang on to my hair enough so I can cover these big spots on the top of my head. I’m fairly tall, so people don’t see the top of my head. The only time I’m really stressed is on a windy day, because then I’m scared that I’m going to have my bald spots exposed to the world.”

It’s not easy to imagine a windy day putting a woman on edge, as this can happen more often than hoped. But as in Sabrina’s case, women with hair loss have options available and should be aware of how to control this condition.

Her advice? “Listen to your doctor, do what you need to do and look after yourself. Stress, not sleeping enough and not eating properly affect your health and your hair. Do what you’re told.”

“The most common cause of hair loss for females is that their iron is low because menstruation causes a lot of blood loss,” said Dr. Liao.

*Patient’s name remains confidential.


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