Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Severe Shedding - Postpartum Telogen Effluvium & Alopecia Areata

Hiya, me again.

I've been quiet for a bit because I've been in a bit of a funk - solely related to my hair. When I announced that I was pregnant again I mentioned that one of my concerns was that the hormonal changes and elevated stress associated with the hyperemesis gravidarum I get when pregnant would have an adverse effect on my hair...again... and four months after my pregnance my fears were confirmed as a large patch appeared overnight at the back of my head... well it hasn't stopped there.

Two smaller patches have appeared just above the nape of my neck, the number of locks 'lost' (detached) or 'weakened' (hanging by one or two strands of hair) has risen from 9 to almost 20.  The lost ones are preceded by an intense itching or burning sensation - as predicted by my dermatologist. This loss is caused by Alopecia Areata.

I find the weakened ones when retightening or separating after washing, you feel a large lump or bump near the base of the existing loc, and at the root (beneath this strange bump) only 2 or 3 strands of hair still attached to the scalp.  This 'excessive shedding' is caused by post-partum Telogen Effluvium (same as last year after I had my son).
While the prognosis for TE is good ie the most likely outcome is regrowth, the same cannot be said for Alopecia Areata (see below) - so I am fighting a battle on two fronts.

At this point - with the ongoing shedding and spreading alopecia areata I am seriously considering shaving my head- I'm talking lower than G.I Jane because my alopecia areas are pure skin and won't blend in otherwise. I'm just so tired of the itching and burning and uncertainty like - is it over now? Or is there still more to come?

For the most part, I've tried to remain upbeat and positive about it and even encourage other women (online and otherwise) facing their own hairloss issues (pregnancy related or otherwise) but recently the 'situation' has started to really get me down. HRH has been incredibly supportive - he is of the opinion that if it grew back once - it can do so again - but my mind takes it a step further: "if it happened before... will it happen again?" I mean seriously, - am I now sentenced to a life time of hair loss and regrowth?

I don't know, only time will tell - but I really just needed to get that off my chest.

I guess I can get back to blogging about other stuff now :)
I think one of the most frustrating things about this is that there isn't much (if anything) that I can do about it. If I had worn more hair in tight styles - I could stop and it would grow back, if it were the result of some sort of drug abuse - again, I could quit and it would eventually grow back but knowing that it is my own body mistakenly attacking my hair follicles and there is not a darned skippy thing I can do about it is pretty depressing. (The condition is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles and suppresses or stops hair growth.[2] )

Facts about Telogen Effluvium

This article explains it so much better than I can - essentially your hair (or large sections of it) all decide to 'go to sleep' ie stop growing and fall out at the same time... kinda like they're all having a flash forward.

Facts about Alopecia Areata (AA)

AA is NOT the same as traction alopecia and is also known as 'spot baldness'. It is NOT caused by excessive tension (tight hairstyles, weaves, buns, braids etc). The causes of an attack of AA are unknown, however prevailing thought is that the condition is a manifestation of autoimmunity (Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it)

The most common type of alopecia areata involves hair loss in one or more round spots on the scalp.[2][4]
  • Hair may also be lost more diffusely over the whole scalp, in which case the condition is called diffuse alopecia areata.[2]
  • Alopecia areata monolocularis describes baldness in only one spot. It may occur anywhere on the head.
  • Alopecia areata multilocularis refers to multiple areas of hair loss.

Signs & Symptoms
  • First symptoms are small, soft, bald patches which can take just about any shape but are most usually round.[6] 
  • There may be different skin areas with hair loss and regrowth in the same body at the same time.
  • It may also go into remission for a time, or permanently.
  • The area of hair loss may tingle or be very slightly painful.[8] 

There is NO CURE for alopecia areata and no universally successful treatment for it either. 
UK Sufferers can log on to http://www.alopeciaonline.org.uk/ for support and advice.


Unknown said...

OMG I feel your pain! Hugs from across the pond! I have heard the MSM is good for autoimmune symptoms related to arthritis sufferers. And just healing in general! I have to say I felt the same way about whether or not my hair would grow back or not since it did the first time too! Man Just keep positive and don't do anything too hasty! I was seriously thinking of shaving my head and starting over too! You have a full glorious head of locks, and you can get through this! :D

It was your blog and the info that you shared that got ME through it! :)

anthia-ofo said...

I hear your distress and fustration. But sis, don't quit. Your locs look very full, the bald patches cannot be seen. I know, it may be little comfort, but if it grew back before, it will certainly grow again. Do what you can to nourish your body and avoid stress. But most of all, stay positive and remember this: when we can go no further, God almighty will carry us. He is the Healer and he loves you dearly. He created those hair follicles and when the body goes wrong, he can restore. You're on my prayer list girl. Keep blogging and documenting what you're doing to get through this, bc your testimony will help someone else through the same problem. Sending lots of love&hugs your way...xxx

Nubian1 said...

You've got the best support in the world right by your side (HRH)!!!

At times like this, we are our own worst enemy. What you think about, you bring about...so it is vital you think positive! It grew back before and it will again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Concentrate on other things and as Ofo said try not to do anything drastic. I have been there and currently have a similar issue, so i know what am talking about.


Titus 2 Thandi said...

:( All the best sis. The itching/burning doesn't sound great either. I'm glad you can 'vent' and that there are other ladies who know 'exactly' what you're going through.

Bajan Lily said...

Thanks ladies, your words of encouragement have been like medicine for my pain at the moment and I am very grateful.

Chaz said...

I hope you realise that your words give strength to many others who are going through similar issues. Stay strong and positive and God will see you through this as he has done before. Continue to find strength and love in your family and friends but greater than that, you pass it on to others in this blog. You are blessed!

Denise said...

Bajan Lily, I'm just getting around to reading this post. My mouth is hanging wide open. You are not going to believe that I am going through the same thing! Since my last post about the folliculitis, I have since lost two more locks (a couple more are hanging on for dear life) and have developed three small bald spots in different areas in the top of my head that also badly itch and burn! I have been too down to even write about it. I am also considering cutting my locks; however, my concern is if I cut then the bald spots will definitely be noticable (even though you can see them now). After reading your post, I wonder if being on the antibiotic compromised my immune system and caused AA?!?! I have been crying to my husband...don't know what to do. Trying to also stay encouraged but this is really challenging. I will pray for you.

Denise said...

Bajan Lily, I forgot to mention that I have been applying jojoba, lavender, and rosemary oils to the spots, and drinking nettle tea which I read is all good for hair growth.

In spite of what we feel and see at the moment, I know that I know God is able and will heal the both of us!

V @ Locks-N-Motion said...

Hey Bajan Lily

I'm going to continue give you encouragement and hang in there. Like the other sister said if it grew back before it will grow back before. ( I keep telling my self that as well). I haven't loss any locks yet but the front of my edges continue to thin and I have a feeling that I will lose locks soon because of thinning. But I'm trying to remain positive and so should you sister. We will overcome this, just be patient a little while longer.

Trina said...

OMG Bajan Lily!! I am so happy that I read your post. I just took pics of the front of my hair where I noticed those same bumps in my SL's. Now that I read your blog you enlightened me as to what this condition is called. My son gave me such hair growth during pregnancy I was hoping to keep it but I guess not. I just took down those locs around the front of my hairline to find a huge ball of hair. I just restarted those locs today. When I post the pics on my blog I hope you don't mind me linking to your blog for others to read. Thank you so much for doing the research.

Bajan Lily said...

@Trina - sure you can link it from yours, glad I could help explain those pesky balls! Wouldn't it have been nice to keep that hair? I thought about taking them down as well - but mine is so severe I would lose the lock entirely i.e. there would be nothing left to restart the lock with. I would end up combining and combining and messing up my grid (esp. if the hair grows back later).

@V & Chaz - thank you, as I said before - I really really really appreciate the support, I need all the encouragement I can get.

@Denise - thanks ever so much. As I mentioned on your blog - your attitude inspired me to keep going
even though most days I just wanna lie down and cry or wallow in self pity lol! I am also worried that if I did shave it - the bald spots would still be visible, so I'm just waiting and watching and hoping and praying ... time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I am just coming to terms with my hair loss. I am also thinking of shaving my head. I will see a specialist in a couple of weeks. I have bought a head scarf. It's the uncertainty about whether it will ever grow back that is stressfull. Likely major stress and losing hormones are the culprits. Thanks for sharing your story, and allowing me to share mine!sjm

Bajan Lily said...

Hello there anonymous (SJM),

Thank you for commenting - sometimes talking helps (even if its just into an anonymous computer). I found that it always meant so much to me to know that someone else GOT IT.
So let me tell you now, I get you.

I understand what you are going through. As the old saying goes: "who feels it knows". Not knowing whether the hair will grow back or not is a real killer - I still have my moments of doubt.

I'm hoping for a positive outcome for you. Here's wishing you all the best and thanks again for dropping by.

deevah said...

@Bayan Lily, thank you for your blog. I have been obsessing over the bald patches on my head for a while now. The decision to cut seems to be the only option now as the patches are at the front and I can't hide them anymore. I am not even sure what caused the thinning as I haven't had any stress recently. Like you, I have many locs that are hanging by a few hairs...so distressing.
Your blog and the words of others here have encouraged me to hang on for a bit longer. Maybe it will grow back with nurturing and care.
Knowing there are others out there experiencing this does make it easier. Thank you all.


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