Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes partial or full hair loss. It can affect the scalp or anywhere else on the body including eyelashes. The Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) suggests that one in fify people suffer from the condition at some stage in their lives, although it most commonly appears during childhood. This week is Alopecia Awareness Week to highlight the physical, emotional and psychological impacts of the disease on the alopecia patient and their families.
Throughout the week The Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation (AAAF) have planned events across Australia to bring together the alopecia community and to raise greater awareness of the condition. Dermaologist with the ACD, Dr Leona Yip, says in their media release “Alopecia areata is the most common autoimmune disease, but yet is lesser known compared to other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes. The extent of hair loss ranges from limited to widespread patches anywhere on the body, although the scalp is most commonly involved. Regardless of the extent of hair loss, the psychological and emotional impact of alopecia areata is usually devastating for affected individuals and their families and therefore cannot be underestimated.”
Georgia Gardner from the AAAF says: “Spreading information and understanding of alopecia areata is always the most important part of our awareness week. As well as media promotions, we have several campaigns running through this week. Wednesday 14 November is the Boldest Bald Morning Tea, a chance for businesses and workplaces to show support of colleagues living with alopecia areata and raise funds for research. For schools and youth groups, we host Crazy Hair Day on Friday 16 November, which helps to address bullying, promote appearance diversity and support young people living with this condition.”
The AAAF are also responsible for organising the anticipated AAAdventure Camp for Kids, where the younger generation of sufferers are able to get together and share their experiences, have fun and meet others like themselves. Georgia says there are almost 100 people attending this year from all over Australia. The camp is offered free of charge thanks to the support of Variety the Children’s Charity.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for alopecia and the AAAF has been working with the dermatologists to rectify inconsistency in the treatment protocols for patients with alopecia areata. They continue to support research into this condition; and work with researchers and practitioners to improve outcomes and experiences for patients.
Dr Yip says: “Unfortunately, many affected individuals do not know where to get good support or seek medical help for alopecia areata. ‘There is nothing you can do’ is often said to affected individuals, falsely dampening any hopes of treatment. Whilst alopecia areata is a challenging condition to treat in many, some individuals experience good response to treatments. There are promising treatments for extensive alopecia areata already available overseas that will hopefully make its way to Australia in the next few years.”
Dr Yip says that anyone concerned they may have alopecia should first see their GP who should then refer them to a dermatologist.
We shared Kimberley’s story last year of her experience and journey with alopecia – check it out.