“Alopecia” is the medical term for hair loss, but many medical experts use the word “alopecia” to refer specifically to autoimmune hair loss, where antibodies attack hair follicles and cause patchy hair loss – and sometimes complete hair loss. But alopecia is not always strictly autoimmune in nature.
Like other visible manifestations of autoimmunity such as psoriasis or scleroderma, alopecia can take a considerable emotional toll.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, “In all forms of alopecia, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal.”
I know how to generate these signals.
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Reversing alopecia is an inside job. Without immune modulation, treatments such as cortisone injections, creams, pills, supplements, drugs, ointments, lasers, or snake oil aren’t likely to signal the follicles to regenerate hair in any lasting way. Addressing the immune system – the root of the problem in most situations – can make these other, questionable strategies obsolete.
In fact, some of these strategies are degenerative, not regenerative and can contribute to more immune dysregulation, making the alopecia worse in the longterm.
I’m Jill Grunewald. I’ve suffered from alopecia – off and on – for 35 years. You can read part of my story here and see the remarkable photos of one young girl I helped go from bald to a head of curls here.
I’m currently working with several others who are re-growing eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair on their scalp.
Click on the audio below to listen to a 2-minute recording that this girl’s mother created about their remarkable program with me:
[Update: The girl referred to in the audio above has had her story published in a national magazine. Go here to read the story and see her photo.]
The National Alopecia Areata Foundation states that more than 6.6 million people in the U.S. and 147 million people worldwide have or will develop alopecia.
The condition is unpredictable in nature. Often times, there’s no pattern to the loss. Some can go periods of time with no balding and some will see sporadic or total regrowth without therapy of any kind.
This is me, Spring 2016. >
The other side looked about the same and I had no hair at my neckline (the alopecia ophiasis pattern). My hair has grown back.
You can go here to read my most recent update (June 2018) >
These are the primary types of alopecia:
- Alopecia areata: patchy bald spots on scalp
- Alopecia totalis: total scalp loss
- Alopecia universalis: total hair loss on body
- Alopecia diffusa: chronic, diffuse thinning (no bald patches) *
- Alopecia ophiasis: loss primarily localized above the ears and lower back of the scalp, at neckline (ophiasis is more of a pattern vs. a type of alopecia – it’s a form of alopecia areata)
- Androgenic alopecia: This condition is “pattern baldness” (in men and women) often characterized by high androgens (“male” hormones). It isn’t considered autoimmune in nature, although there’s often an autoimmune component along with the androgenic pattern. PCOS is characterized by high androgens and this is why so many who suffer from PCOS have considerable scalp loss. Some who have androgenic alopecia don’t, in fact, have high androgens; they have more androgen receptors and higher levels of an enzyme involved in steroid metabolism that converts testosterone to DHT.
* Alopecia diffusa can be a difficult diagnosis; all-over thinning is often related to hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s, a period of intense stress or trauma, and/or high androgens. If not technically autoimmune in nature, diffuse loss is called telogen effluvium.
Conventional treatments of alopecia depend on the severity of the condition. The most common treatment involves a visit to the dermatologist for cortisone (steroid) shots in the scalp or topical cortisone creams. But alopecia isn’t a skin condition.
Other treatments include cortisone pills or a prescription for an immune response modifier. None are without side effects; immune response modifiers in particular have a long list of common and serious repercussions.
And none get to the root of the condition for the vast majority of sufferers – a dysregulated immune system. (My autoimmunity/Hashimoto’s was (and still is) managed when I got my new round of spots. My recent episode was related to entering perimenopause (a story I’ll write about soon – just know that estrogen plays a significant role in the immune system), but my history of alopecia (and Hashimoto’s) didn’t help matters.)
So while these conventional treatments may promote hair growth short-term, they don’t prevent future loss and it’s often a game of whack-a-mole: “the practice of repeatedly getting rid of something, only to have more of that thing appear.”
Many with total scalp loss feel that a wig is their only option. But reversing alopecia is possible, without the use of any of these dubious treatments. (The exception is cicatricial alopecia (scarring alopecia), a rare disorder that can damage hair follicles.)
Just like there’s no pattern to the loss, there is no pattern to regrowth, as evidenced here.
- Hair loss is a hallmark symptom of low thyroid function.
- With any manifestation of autoimmunity, antibodies can attack any system, and hair follicles are often the target.
A true double whammy. But it’s not a hopeless situation!
We can help anyone, anywhere via phone or Zoom. Contact us to receive the guidance that you need.
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