Coping with sudden hair loss10th July 2006
In 1999, an image of Gail Porter was projected nude onto the Houses of Parliament as a publicity stunt for FHM magazine. It was the beginning of a career change that was to take her away from presenting children’s television to roles in television, radio and modelling.
Then, in late summer 2005, she lost all her hair over a period of four weeks. Though at first she hid away from the public eye, her schedule was such that this was not something she could sustain for long. She eventually went to see her doctor and was diagnosed with alopecia. In no doubt that her condition was caused by stress - she had only recently beforehand taken an overdose during a spell of post-natal depression and had separated from her husband the year before - it would have been very easy to sink further into depression. Instead she decided to face her condition head-on and was soon seen on the catwalk sporting a pink mohican hairstyle.
Last month, the BBC programme ONE life followed Gail as she faced up to life as a bald woman, wondering, among other things, whether her hair will grow back, her boyfriend will continue to find her attractive, her family will get used to her new look, or her career will stall.
Alopecia consists of two main types: alopcia areata, which is sudden, and androgenetica, which is the normal hair loss that men suffer and is sometimes known as male pattern baldness.
Alopecia areata is divided into three types, depending on how much hair is lost. In its most common form, it results in patchy baldness on the scalp, leaving areas of bare skin which is smooth to the touch.
Where the scalp loses all its hair, it is called alopecia totalis. Sometimes all hair on the body and scalp is suddenly lost, a condition known as alopecia universalis.
Alopecia is not physically dangerous and does not cause any scarring - but it can be devastating psychologically. The condition affects about 1 in 50 people in the UK - some studies have found it affects more women then men - and is thought to be the result of an auto-immune condition where the body’s defences attack and destroy the cells responsible to hair growth.
Regrowth can spontaneously re-occur but medical treatment is available though only successful in around 50% of cases.
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