Not too many people know that I suffer from a skin disorder called Alopecia (al-oh-PEE-shah) Areata (ar-ee-AH-tah). My episodes are not severe but I do a very good job of concealing them. I guess Elsa and I have something in common. And maybe there is a more logical reason why I have such a large collection of hats.
So what is Alopecia Areata? It is an autoimmune skin disorder where hair loss in round patches appear on your scalp and your body. In other words, your immune system attacks the hair follicles and as a result, the random bald spots. You don’t feel sick or have other symptoms during an episode. It is just one of those “silent” disorders and only visible when you can actually see the bald spots. I first noticed a big bald spot on the nape of my neck when I was in my mid 20’s. I didn’t know what to make of it. My mother had no clue and she was terrified. We were both terrified.
After being properly diagnosed by a dermatologist, I was given corticosteroid injections on the affected areas (somewhat painful) and applied Rogaine topical foam at home. I visited the doctor a few times per year to repeat treatment. It normally takes a couple of months for the hair to grow back. And with my dark, long hair, I had to find ways to conceal my baldness. It took a huge blow to my self confidence. I was either wearing headbands, hats of various styles, leaving my hair down or always up in a pony tail… depending on where the bald spots were located on my scalp.
When I was first pregnant with K, I noticed that I didn’t have an episode. I was relieved because I thought that being pregnant would make my condition worse. But it didn’t. What was I doing differently? And then a light bulb sparked. I was taking the prenatal vitamins.
I looked over the label and realized that folic acid may play an important role with my hair follicles. According to WebMD,
Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant take folic acid to prevent miscarriage and “neural tube defects,” birth defects such as spina bifida that occur when the fetus’s spine and back do not close during development.
Some people use folic acid to prevent colon cancer or cervical cancer. It is also used to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as to reduce blood levels of a chemical called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels might be a risk for heart disease.
Folic acid is used for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related hearing loss, preventing the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing signs of aging, weak bones (osteoporosis), jumpy legs (restless leg syndrome), sleep problems, depression, nerve pain, muscle pain, AIDS, a skin disease called vitiligo, and an inherited disease called Fragile-X syndrome.
Wow, so many uses listed above were a big surprise to me. So now I continue in taking folic acid vitamins (400 mg) with my women’s multivitamins (another 400 mg of folic acid included). That’s a total of 800 mg of folic acid. I found that this was a non-invasive and harmless way of dealing with the issue.
Right now, I have a small bald spot on the top of my head but it’s been a long time since my last episode. It is partly my fault since I kept forgetting to take my vitamins. My hair usually grows back in a couple of months. It just takes a bit of patience and technique in concealing my hair once it begins to grow. At one point, I had little sprouts of short hair which would just stand completely upwards like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals.
This is not in any way a medical recommendation. If you suspect alopecia, please see your doctor first. Your doctor can properly diagnose your condition.
There is no cure for alopecia but it is treatable. I want to give hope to anyone who may suffer from this skin condition. You are not alone.
A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. - Maya Angelou