(Audio or text only clips) Arti developed alopecia areata 10 months ago. She had a small initial patch which turned into more rapid hair loss. Alopecia has had a huge emotional and social impact on Arti, though she is coping better now since using hair pieces and wigs.
Arti developed alopecia areata about 10 months ago. Her doctors have repeatedly said that they think she developed alopecia because of stress; however, Arti disagrees and thinks that the alopecia produced stress, rather than being the other way round. Arti thinks that she is more predisposed to having alopecia because of some autoimmune health conditions in her family and because she herself has thyroid problems.
Arti initially thought that her first bald patch was a scar from a childhood injury. She thought it strange when the hair regrew but didn’t think too much of it. A few months later, she discovered other patches on different parts of her scalp. She went to her GP who diagnosed it as alopecia and told her that it would probably go away with time. However, Arti’s alopecia became more extensive and she rapidly lost a lot of her hair. She continued to go back to her GP, taking encouragement from online discussion forums that she should be persistent, before eventually being referred to a dermatologist. Arti was able to get an appointment more quickly because of her parents having private medical cover, but she still had to wait several weeks.
Arti has used prescribed steroid creams and been given steroid injections in two of her bald patches by her dermatologist. Whilst there seems to be some early signs of hair growth from the steroid injections, her hair has continued to fall out elsewhere on her scalp. Arti began to look into wigs by visiting a local shop and posting in an online forum for living with alopecia. She learnt a lot about wigs, including that a partial wig might be suitable because it would allow her to include her own hair. When this no longer covered her hair loss, she bought a synthetic full wig and she has recently been given a real hair wig from her parents which they bought whilst on holiday in India. The cost of wigs is a concern and Arti plans to get an NHS wig eventually; when she first looked into it, she found that the paperwork involved is long and would have caused a delay in getting a wig at the time when it mattered most to her.
Developing alopecia has been very stressful and confusing for Arti. She disliked the way she looked and would spend several hours re-arranging her hair so that others wouldn’t see the bald patches. She struggled with this a great deal and found social situations difficult to cope with. As a result, she wasn’t able to go to her lectures or seminars, which meant that she missed out on valuable opportunities for learning at university. Arti told only a few very close people, such as her parents and her boyfriend, about her alopecia but didn’t let anyone else know for several months. She began telling her friends when she felt more comfortable with wearing hair pieces. She also spoke to her university about the impact on her and was given some practical help with assignments as well as a referral to a welfare representative. Arti wishes that she had spoken to friends and her university earlier and she encourages other young people with alopecia to talk about it, even if they are reluctant at first. Arti thinks doctors and dermatologists should make sure to ask young people with alopecia about mental health and the emotional impacts.