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Alopecia Areata is a serious medical disease Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. Alopecia areata results in partial or complete loss of hair on the scalp and body, and it can have other symptoms as well.
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STEPHANIE’S STORY
STEPHANIE’S STORY
“It’s encouraging that so much research is on the horizon.”

Stephanie lost everything when her Louisiana town was completely wiped out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She survived, and she and her husband moved to higher ground and started over in a new town. Then, two years later, when she was 31, she found a little bald spot on her head. “I had crazy thick hair and didn’t think much of it,” Stephanie says. “I went to the doctor and found out I had 14 bald spots I didn’t even know about, hidden in all that hair.” Stephanie’s diagnosis: alopecia areata.

Stephanie was surprised to learn that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. “I have two degrees in the medical field and knew about autoimmune diseases, but I didn’t know alopecia areata was one until I was diagnosed and researched it.”

Acceptance

For four years, Stephanie’s alopecia areata was very unpredictable. She tried treatments with some hair regrowth, but then her hair started falling out quickly. “I ended up with only one patch of hair on my head. My husband shaved it off for me. It was a very intense moment, and I cried at the finality of it,” Stephanie says. “But it was also liberating, to be free of it. Then, I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes as well.”

Emotionally, she still struggled with depression and coping with alopecia areata. This changed when an interaction with one of her patients helped her come to terms with her disease. (Stephanie’s job is in the health care field.)

“After about six months into being completely bald, one of my patients came in for a test on a day when I was thinking about an expensive wig I wanted to buy. She told me that she had cancer and had been given three months to live.” Stephanie says this was a significant moment in her life, calling it her turning point into acceptance. “I realized that although I do not have hair, I get to live my life.”

Now, Stephanie says she appreciates her amazing family and friends (including her patient, who is a cancer survivor), co-workers, and a great support system. “I’m in a great place.”

Living with the Disease

Stephanie has been living with alopecia areata for 11 years. She has some hair regrowth now, but she knows that could change any day, and her hair could fall out again.

Stephanie has adapted to life with her physical symptoms of alopecia areata. Her scalp is very sore when hair falls out or grows back, and without her eyelashes, she finds that her eyes get irritated and dry more easily, especially in the winter.

Even though she describes herself as social and outgoing, Stephanie still has some anxiety when going to a new place and meeting new people. “I love meeting new people, but there is that little sense of hesitation: What will they say? Will they ask me questions? Will they stare?”

Stephanie says it was important for her to share her story because she wants to help others who have alopecia areata and let them know someone else is going through the same thing with the disease.

Stephanie hopes for more awareness and more research for alopecia areata. “It’s encouraging that so much research is on the horizon. Alopecia areata is starting to get a big spotlight – keep the faith!”

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