Over the years the dermatologists have tried many different techniques, from ultraviolet light to steroids, but the chances of success with any of these treatments is extremely limited.
In any case, as the hair often grows back of its own accord, any apparent success is difficult to evaluate. Back home, my doctor referred me to a consultant dermatologist.
He predicted that my hair would probably grow back ‘in no time’. ‘But you need to get your confidence back,’ he said. Shrewd of him to notice that I, who had always been so full of confidence at least outwardly had lost it with my hair. Self regard had slipped away in those frightening few weeks. I felt diminished. ‘I’ll give you a prescription to get some financial help with wigs,’ he added. The situation took on its nightmare quality again.
I dreamed last night that I lost all my hair and a doctor was prescribing wigs. Had it really come to that? ‘I don’t know how you’ve managed without a wig for so long,’ he remarked. I was still full of questions. Why should I young healthy and female suddenly lose my hair? The sixty four thousand dollar question remained unanswered.
The consultant was frank. ‘Let’s be honest. We don’t know. It could happen to anyone. I could wake up tomorrow with no hair’ a thought he clearly found unlikely. My doctor had suggested that it might have been brought on by childbirth a theory the consultant dismissed swiftly. ‘What? Fifteen months later? Any hair loss connected with birth would have cleared up again in two or three months.’ He shook his head, his eyes resting irritably on my daughter, who was rattling the car keys had given her as a distraction.
‘You have a classic case of alopecia areata. The Americans reckon it’s all caused by stress.’ He grinned. ‘But then, they blame stress for everything. I was beginning to get the impression that it was some kind of mental crack-up but that no one liked tell me. ‘Are you saying it’s a nervous breakdown or something?’
‘No. As far as we know, this is an auto-immune disease. The lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s defence mechanism and reject anything foreign, overwork and reject the hair follicles. But we don’t know what triggers it. We can only surmise that it is worry, anxiety, stress. These days, though, that idea is a bit out of fashion.’