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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

February 25th, 2012 · 6 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

Let’s be clear. I’ve never been one of those women with thick or long hair.  Its always been fine, short and extremely prone to breaking.  The coloring, straightening, blow drying and tight  braiding didn’t help matters.  Sixteen months ago I started locking my hair and while it has grown rapidly, the grid pattern used to form these microlocks made the thinning at my crown a lot more noticeable.  One day, I stepped out of the shower and noticed a loc on the bathroom floor.  In November of last year, my lockitician, Sabine – noticed some thinning at the back left corner of my head and the  former home of the fallen loc.  It wasn’t a bald patch but she asked me if I was having any medical or internal problems (hmmm…. no just the usual black woman medical trifecta of stress, high blood pressure and weight gain).

 I promptly made an appointment with my internist.  She asked about my weight.  I complained about my  thinning hair. “Lets get some lab work,” she said.  I was feeling great.  So great, I missed my follow-up appointment in December.

In January, Sabine is doing my hair and again makes note of the hair “thinning as it comes out of my head.”  I  promise to call my doctor.  I ask her to check my Thyroid levels.  The doctor calls me but her computer is down. She promises to call me back.  At 10:30 pm I get a message from her – asking me to call her. Not a good sign. Couldn’t she just say my labs were okay?

The next day we touch base. I’m anemic, iron deficient, vitamin D deficient but my thyroid is fine.  She asks me about any heavy menstrual bleeding. I ask her if the low iron is making my hair fall out.  She is focused on my blood count but I’m focused on my hair.  I promise to see my gyn and she starts me on iron and Vitamin D3 supplements.   I start the iron tablets.  I have so much gastric pain I think I’m having a heart attack.  Should I have my secretary call 911 or just suck it up?  What’s a few myocardial fibers?  I want my hair.   I suck it up.

I call three of my girlfriends. Two are pediatricians and one is an OB-GYN.  Peds doc #1 does not think my low iron is a factor and suggests taking fish oil supplements for their anti-inflammatory effects. The OB-GYN girlfriends laughs, calls me vain and says she has known me since I was 15 and my hair has always been thin. Perhaps, its traction alopecia she says and good thing its in the back and not in the front.  Although traction alopecia is usually seen with tight braids, cornrows, and weaves – it can be seen with locs. I explain to her that there is no traction or pulling with sisterlocks.  She doesn’t want to hear it.  She suggests that my locktician not retighten my locs all the way down to my scalp.  Peds doc #2 believes the iron levels could be a factor.  She advises me to get a serum ferritin level drawn.  Oh yeah and see your Dermatologist.

I head back to my internist to have a serum ferritin level done.  She wants to do a blood count again.  The results come back and my blood count is moving up but the lab didn’t do a ferritin level – they did an Insulin level by mistake – and its abnormally low.  We both are scratching our heads.  My blood glucose is normal so I’m not diabetic. Do I have pancreatic cancer?  I feel stressed. Maybe this hair loss is due to stress?

I go the the gyn.  I want to bargain with her. You can do whatever you want to my uterus as long as my hair grows back.  She’s not taking the bait.  She can treat my fibroids but wants to see if my blood work is better with the iron supplementation. She also doesn’t think the iron deficiency is causing my hair loss.  She thinks I should see a rheumatologist.  I feel fine and I think if I have one more test – I will get a false positive.  Even if it is a real positive – if I have no symptoms – what are we treating.  I want to scream – I JUST WANT MY HAIR.

I finally make it to the dermatologist. Hmmm… looks like I hadn’t seen her in almost  2 years. (I was supposed to have a six month follow-up.)  I bring in my photos and explain to her about my thinning hair.  She examines me and agrees. Its not a case of extreme vanity (ok it may be) my hair does look thinner and she can see the spot where one of my locs fell out.  She suggests a scalp biopsy.  She numbs up my scalp and its over in 5 minutes.

Today I went in to have the stitch removed and get the results.  “You have androgenetic alopecia“. I’m floored.  She starts the spin. It’s really good news (HOW SO?).  It can be treated with Rogaine or spironolactone.  I probably won’t lose all off my hair. My daughter probably won’t inherit it but she begs me to not relax her hair at a young age.  Then she tells me to be glad I  don’ have cicatricial (scarring)  alopecia which in rampant in African-American women.  There is no treatment for cicatricial alopecia and it can occur from relaxers, hot combs (for straightening) and hairstyles with traction.  She says she was surprised by the diagnosis but this is why she advises patients to do a scalp biopsy for any hair loss.  In addition, she advises me to continue  with my iron, Vit D3 and Biotin supplementation.

This post has nothing to do with travel, wine or leisure (unless you count the glass of wine I’m having at 11 o’clock this morning to soothe my nerves.) but  30 million women in the US suffer from hair loss.  Make that 30 million + one. When I told Big P this morning he said  I shouldn’t be depressed about this and that  it is better to know than not to know. Isn’t that what I always tell patients?  Then we played an alopecia -Dr. Suess game. Will you love me in a hat? in a weave? in a wig? or just like that?

He said he loves me – just like that.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Sabrina

    I wanna say I understand you might feel depressed today, hair is so important for most women.
    But I also don’t want to bum you out…You look beautiful with or without hair.

  • Ann

    Thanks Sabrina!

  • Freda

    i just found your blog and love it. your post Hair today gone tomorrow, It.s funny and I understand your pain. I too have thinning hair and have tried so much products to get my hair growing thick. However now I just enjoy it the way it is short and thin. Its okay I am beautiful and so are you. Thanks for sharing. I am glad you are healthy

  • Ann

    Freda – thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I’m trying to treat my hair like I treat my children … taking good care of it, appreciating it while its still around 🙂 and enjoying it each and every day. Its a downer to have hair loss but it has helped me to improve my diet quite a bit. Peace and blessings to you!

  • Doreen

    Such a pleasure meeting you at our mutual friend’s fundraiser yesterday! She told me about your blog and I’m thoroughly enjoying your reflections. Just wanted to share with you and your readers the following link: http://www.hormonehelpny.com/column/alopecia.htm

    I also suffer from androgenetic alopecia and have been treated by this doctor for the past 1 1/2 yrs. Happy to report my once excessive shedding showed signs of slowing within a few weeks and ceased to normal levels within months of starting treatment. I did not have successful results with minoxidil (severe scalp irritation and no noticeable slowing) and although I hope it works for you in conjunction with the other therapies you are utilizing, I thought I would offer another option. I also take spironolactone and as it was determined my hair loss was associated with perimenopause I am on low dose hormone replacement (estrogen). Added benefit?… all other signs of fast approaching menopause have ceased as well and I’m skating thru this period of my life symptom free! Oh, one last remark, I did inherit this from my mother as did she from hers. Ugh! BUT I’m happy to live in a time when we have options.

    Good luck!

  • Ann

    Doreen – thanks so much for the information. I’m having some results with minoxidil but I’m still considering spironolactone (I’m also hypertensive so it would have some additional benefits for me). Genetics and menopause are such “ish” to deal with but I’m keeping my chin up. Thanks so much for sharing the link … I will look into it. Hope you got some great jewelry yesterday at the fundraiser.

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