What is alopecia areata? It's an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss. Why am I discussing it? Read on . . .
Recently, Tyler and I were in the car and when we stopped at a red light, I began pulling my hair into a ponytail. As I reached back with my left hand, I thought my scalp felt funny. And then I realized that I had a bald spot. It was about the size of a quarter and hidden by the rest of my hair, which is presumably why no one had ever noticed it before. I panicked! I called my primary physician and got squeezed in that same day. My doctor assured me that the condition wasn't indicative of anything serious and that the only possible cause he could test for was my thyroid, and told me to see my dermatologist.
The thyroid test came back normal.
A few days ago, I saw my dermatologist, Dr. R. He diagnosed the bald spot as alopecia areata. While typically occurring in children, the condition can occur at any age.
Dr. R said that alopecia areata occurs when white blood cells congregate under the skin, cutting the hair off from nutrients, which results in it falling out. He injected my scalp half a dozen times with a very diluted cortisone solution, which he said would dissipate the white blood cells in the area. Dr. R said that without treatment, the alopecia areata might spread. Yikes!
I had (of course) Googled "random bald spot" immediately upon my discovery of the bald spot and concluded that it probably was alopecia areata. The articles I read said that one of the potential causes was stress, and I had been very stressed out since the holidays last year due to a situation with some family members. But when I mentioned stress to Dr. R, he was somewhat dismissive. He said stress was a possible trigger, but it wasn't the actual cause. He likened stress to the trigger of a gun, and the cause to a bullet. The bullet is the actual cause of death; the trigger is just what got the bullet going. He said that genetics are the likely cause, but I got the impression that no one knows the cause of alopecia areata for sure.
For the time being, I am optimistic that my hair will start growing back within four weeks. If it doesn't, Dr. R said he'll give me another round of shots. And I don't want that - the shots really hurt!
If you have alopecia areata, you have my sympathy. While not a serious health condition in the sense that it doesn't seem to impact anything but hair growth, it's still no fun. And my bald spot is in the best place it could possibly be, where no one can see it. Others aren't so lucky.