A couple of months ago, I was unclogging our shower and sink drains a little too often--pulling out a lot of hair. I knew it was a sign of something bad. I thought we had an issue with our pipes. I was wrong.
One evening while we were brushing our teeth my husband, who is a lot taller than I am, said, “Uh, you’ve got a bald spot on your head.”
I spat out my toothpaste and said, “Yeah, right.”
He said, “No really.”
So I got out a mirror, a couple of mirrors since the area was on the back of my head near the crown. My husband was right. There was an oval spot on my head that was completely denuded of hair.
Like any 21st century woman, I turned to Google. And what I found wasn’t great. So I made an appointment with the doctor. He took one look and confirmed my suspicions. I had an auto-immune disease called “alopecia areata.” In alopecia areata*, the immune system attacks the hair follicles. (Isn’t that ridiculous?) The good news is that it doesn’t affect my general health. (Though it is associated with other auto-immune diseases and I had a flurry of blood tests run. And when one came back "bad," I had a couple very meticulous blood draws—basically, they kept drawing blood until the results came back normal.)
Now I’m being treated with lots of steroid injections into my scalp (not nearly as painful as I’d been led to believe) and topical steroids. And though it leaves my scalp tender and I have a few sores, some hair is growing back, though the color is weird. However, other hair is falling out. And I have hair missing on other parts of my body. The prognosis is unclear. I could regrow some hair and lose other hair. It could go into remission. Or, though this is very unlikely, I could lose all the hair on my head (alopecia areata totalis) or all the hair on my body (alopecia areata universalis).
In the meantime, I’m doing the female version of the “comb over.” And I’m investigating scalp makeup. (Who knew such things existed?)
*Because Alopecia areata is an auto-immune disease, it is NOT contagious. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, here’s the website of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.