Illness and Hair Loss

How being ill might affect hair loss and alopecia

This week I’ve been suffering with flu symptoms. I’m obviously well enough to sit up now and type this, so I think I’ve had the worst of it, but during the last few days I’ve been literally flat on my back in bed. I’ve been shivering and dizzy with a high temperature and vomiting. I’ve now got a bad cold and a hacking cough, accompanied by a vicious sore throat. As I’ve been lying in my sick bed, I’ve been wondering whether a bout of illness like this is likely to cause more hair loss for a sufferer of frontal fibrosing alopecia.

Although I’ve been inspecting my pillow for strands of hair, I think that illness is unlikely to cause any immediate, out of the ordinary hair loss. Longer term, I know that illness, stress or any other trauma to the body can trigger hair loss, including (and possibly especially) for FFA sufferers. My first bout of hair loss was triggered by extreme stress over a few months. My hair fell out over a period of two or three weeks from my hairline, across my forehead and above my ears, leaving me with a sparse covering in this area. Hair loss which occurs after stress or illness (or pregnancy, for that matter) is called telogen effluvium, a non-scarring alopecia. According to my GP, this is what happened to me, although the dermatologist told me that I’d more likely got a scarring alopecia, and that because the hair loss was from the front and sides, this was a clear sign it would be FFA. Yes, I’m still very confused about that!

A low level of illness, such as the virus I’ve currently got, is not likely to see my hair fall out dramatically over the next few days. What it might do is contribute to weakening the hair follicles, which could lead to a bit of shedding in a few weeks or so, I suppose – and if it does, I’ll report back. But I actually think being ill has been quite good for my hair. I  washed it for the first time this morning since getting ill, so for six days I left it, giving the natural oils a good chance to coat the hair shaft. And it feels to be in pretty good condition. This time of year doesn’t do hair any favours, as confirmed by my hairdresser the other week. Bad weather and central heating all take their toll on the healthy look and feel of hair. Not washing it quite as frequently definitely seems to help, but better not to have to leave it unwashed because you are ill. I wouldn’t wish this virus on anyone!

Hope everyone’s staying well and warm. Roll on the spring!

Rachel x

 

 

Biopsy Results

My biopsy results for my alopecia diagnosis surprised me!

I got my biopsy results on Sunday and they were………………………….. inconclusive! This was the ensuing conversation with the dermatologist:

“So, is that unusual for the biopsy results to come back inconclusive?”

“No, not at all. They’re often inconclusive.” (What, really??)

“Oh….. So, what does that mean?”

“Well, it is saying you’ve got alopecia, but we don’t know what type. It could be frontal fibrosing alopecia or it could be another type of scarring alopecia. It doesn’t look like alopecia areata as that it more patchy hair loss all over.” (Well, I could have told you that!! So, all we’ve established is what we already knew a month ago!!)

“Right, so what happens now then?”

“I’ll ask the consultant if he wants to do a deeper biopsy, or not.” (Why on earth didn’t he just do a deeper biopsy in the first place if the more superficial ones are often inconclusive??)

“Right.” (I’m going private…)

So, I get home and dig out my private policy details. You may be wondering whether I haven’t used this before now. The reason is that my hair loss hasn’t progressed much (if at all – hard to tell) since July. I was already booked in for the biopsy with the NHS when I realised that I might was covered under a policy my ex husband had taken out. I decided that if I went private at that point, I would only end up having another biopsy, so decided to wait for the NHS biopsy results before I investigated the private route. Granted, the results from a private biopsy would have come back much faster (the NHS results took a month), but as my hair loss had slowed, there didn’t seem to be a rush.

Anyway, I rang BUPA and was given consultants’ names in my area etc. etc. and at the end of the phone call was told there was an excess to pay of £500 on the policy. What?! So, in actual fact, what I’ve decided to do is to press the NHS for a deeper biopsy and take it from there.

So, there we are! I’ll keep moving forward.

See you soon 🙂

Rachel x