According to research, alopecia areata (AA) affects 1 in 1000 people.
While only 2% of those individuals are at risk for developing AA for their lifetime, the experience of hair loss can be difficult, regardless of the low potential for permanence. So, if you’ve found a bald patch, it’s not uncommon to be feeling overwhelmed, confused, and lost.
A bald patch doesn’t necessarily point to AA.
Having a clear plan of action regarding what to do when you find a bald patch can provide you a sense of control when you’re feeling anything but. Before you start thinking up the worst case scenario, take a breath, and follow these 7 steps.
1. Stay Calm
There are many things that could be causing your hair loss. Hair loss may be the result of:
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy, after childbirth, as a result of menopause, or due to thyroid problems.
- Medical conditions such as a scalp infections, ringworm, or other disease for example Lupus
- Side effects from medications or supplements.
- A very stressful or traumatic event.
- Hairstyles and hair treatments.
Considering the abundance of reasons that could be behind your bald patch, there’s no need to jump to the worst case scenario and get yourself stressed, worried, and anxious. Stay calm, find a breathing exercise, and move on to step 2.
Step 2: Make an Appointment With Your GP
The first call you should make after finding a bald patch is to your GP, they can help you get to a specialist so you can find your answers.
Being armed with information that you take to your GP, can eliminate many of the factors in Step 1. Having a blood test will not give a diagnosis of AA, but it can rule out other conditions like hormone imbalances, an overactive or inactive thyroid or lupus. You can then take this information to the dermatologist.
Step 3: Make an Appointment With Your Dermatologist
A dermatologist is generally considered the best specialist for diagnosing and providing treatment for AA. Your GP can make recommendations as to dermatologists in your area and provide the necessary referral for making your appointment.
Make sure that you’re comfortable with the dermatologist after your first appointment. Finding a bald patch can cause emotional and psychological upheaval and you want to be sure that your doctor is someone you trust and feel comfortable speaking to and working with.
If you don’t feel like you can have that kind of relationship after your first visit, keep looking. You can use this search tool provided by The Australian College of Dermatologists to find dermatologists in your area.
4. Consider These Simple Ways to Help You Cope
You might be waiting some time to see a dermatologist. That could be weeks or even months without a diagnosis or answer. In the meantime, you might consider finding small ways to help you cope with your discovery.
Depending on where your bald patch is, and how you feel about it, you might consider hats, scarves or alternative hair. It is totally up to you!
Seek independent counselling from a professional may help to create more positive self-esteem, leading to a lower level of stress and anxiety.
Accept the journey of mixed feelings- it’s okay to have a bad day.
This is also a good point to initiate self-care habits, such as yoga, meditation, a gratitude practice, or a commitment to spend more time outdoors. Taking time for yourself to practice self-love and self-care will help you move through this experience with grace and confidence.
5. Consider Seeking Support
The relationship you have with your dermatologist and GP does not provide all the emotional support you need. It might be comforting to speak with people who have had similar experiences. This is where support groups come in.
A support group bridges the gap between your treatment and your need for emotional support. It’s where you can meet and share with people experiencing the same emotions as you are. Here, you can find strength in other’s experiences, learn about coping strategies, and receive first-hand information from others who possibly asked the same questions at the start of their journey.
Understand that you will have the need to search for a meaning.
Find the online Alopecia Support Group for your state and request to join. These online groups are 100% private and they’re filled with AA individuals as well as their families. These safe spaces give you a place to ask questions and find individuals to share with. You may also feel self-empowerment by helping others with their AA journey.
6. Register and Research With AAAF
If you’re not already registered with AAAF, then you should take the time to do so. Registration takes no more than a few minutes and it gives you access to new events, research, and programs that you might be interested in. You can register with AAAF here.
Plus, AAAF has a wealth of information, studies and stories on the blog and website that could really help you. Have a click around and have a look! We even have a youtube channel with even more information.
7. Purchase a No Hair We Care Pack
The AAAF created the No Hair We Care Program (NHWC) that delivers care packages to people with any form of AA. The package contains headwear, skincare, DVDs, books, makeup, jewellery, games, and more. They come in a range of options, including packages designed for males or females with different colour options (simple and classic or bright and bold). You’ll also find a wealth of information and resources to support you through this time.
Each NHWC package has over $100 worth of items and sells for only $15 (+GST). They can be purchased on the AAAF e-store and the shipping is covered regardless of where in Australia you live.
If you’ve found a bald patch, there’s no need to panic. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and follow steps 1 through 7. After going through these steps and adopting their recommendations, you should find yourself in a calmer and more informed place from which to make decisions and move forward.
To inform yourself further, be sure to check out the research we support.
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