Lately, gratitude has been the buzz word on my mind. It is so important to be thankful for your family, your friends, the food on the table, your health, your happiness and your hair. Yes, I said hair.

Glamdolls, did you know that almost two per cent of the American population suffers from a crippling disease known as “alopecia areata”? This unfortunate form of hair loss is an autoimmune disease, that is, one in which the body that produces antibodies begins to attack its own cells, leading to the destruction of the tissue in question. In the case of alopecia, the immune system targets the hair follicles.

Contradictory to popular belief, hair loss is not strictly a male disease. Alopecia is most common amongst teenagers and those in their early twenties; however it can occur in people of all ages and races irrespective of their gender. Of course, hereditary factors play a major role as well – one out of five patients has at least one more family member with alopecia too.

It typically makes its presence known with one or two small round patches as clumps of hair begin to fall out. In some cases, the hair may break off, leaving short rough stubs instead. As the hair grows back, it may fall out from somewhere else. Sometimes, nails are the first symptom to emerge because alopecia tends to make talons pitted, rough and thin. More often than not, the hair loss is temporary as alopecia usually subsides in about a year; however, there are certain rare cases where the hair follicles are never able to rebuild themselves. Alopecia is permanent in about 10% of people diagnosed with the condition.

The bad news is that alopecia cannot be cured. The good news is that it can be treated to quicken the recovery process and encourage hair to grow again. The most common medicines are those which suppress the immune system and encourage the regrowth of hair, usually in the form of injections, creams, lotions and ointments. Most doctors prescribe two treatments to boost the success rate however it is absolutely critical that you understand the side effects before jumping on the wagon.

The most sensitive issue that comes with alopecia is not the hair loss itself, but the emotional toll that comes with it. It is always a good idea to join a support group of likeminded people who are going or have been through what you are experiencing now. They will give you the strength to keep on moving forward in the face of tough times. As someone wise once said, “It is not what I have been through in my life that defines who I am. It is how I got through it that has made me the person I am today.

Chin up, buttercup.