Living With Alopecia: A First Person Account10:49 PM
Article written by Nykia Spradley for BlackVoices.com
For centuries, long, lush locks have been seen as a symbol of great beauty. We frequently perm, curl, and weave in strands to help enhance our appearance, oftentimes without much thought about what life would be like without a perfectly coiffed crown. Now imagine the shock and surprise of suddenly losing it all.
37-year-old Sonya Weekes found herself holding back tears as her dermatologist explained that her thinning hair was a condition called alopecia, and that it would likely never grow back. Six years later, she's educated herself and others on her emotionally and physically distressing condition and has gained a different outlook on what beauty really means.
As told to Nykia Spradley
About 6 years ago, I was experiencing hair loss and slow growth in the center of my scalp. That area has always been weak, but I kept perming my hair. Then, about 7 years ago, the thinning got really bad. I read an article that said you should visit a dermatologist if you are experiencing hair loss, but it had never occurred to me before that I should visit a doctor.
When I found out why I was losing my hair, I thought I was going to cry in the doctor's office, but I didn't. However, I was very depressed. Women look to their hair for beauty, and I didn't feel attractive. I thought I wouldn't find a husband with short hair, but then I decided that I didn't want someone who can't see past my hair and not see my heart.
I wasn't at all familiar with alopecia, so I looked online for more information about my condition. I also started seeing a doctor that was conducting research on my specific disease. The most surprising thing that I learned about alopecia is that there is no cure, and doctors aren't sure what causes it. There are guesses that braids, over-processing from relaxers and weaves contribute to it. I have stopped perming my hair, but my scalp in some areas is permanently damaged, so now I wear my hair in a short Caesar cut.
There are many African American women that suffer from alopecia. Hair thinning and hair loss affects as many as two-thirds of African-American women by age 50, according to R. Martin Earles, M.D., a Chicago-based dermatologist who specializes in hair-loss treatment.
The effects vary, some worse than others. The earlier you diagnose it, the better, because you can take measures to maintain the portions of the scalp that are still healthy. It's key to catch it before the scalp is permanently scarred.
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