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Raising awareness on Alopecia

Sizakele Mdluli-Chaplin has a dream of living in a world where beauty is not defined by long hair, a slim body and straight white teeth.

She was diagnosed with alopecia which is a disease which causes the immune system to attack hair follicles throughout the body and leads to hair falling off on the scalp, underarms, eye brows, eyelashes and the pubic area.

“So basically, you lose all your hair and most people have been called aliens and all sorts of hurtful names,” said Mdluli-Chaplin.

With September being Alopecia awareness month Mdluli-Chaplin who has being living with this disease for seven years is determined to raise awareness about this sickness.

This Durban based woman who is now living in the United States has written a book titled ‘Enough Already’ in a bid to create awareness about this disorder.

She adds that it took almost a year for her to get a diagnosis of what was happening to her after visiting several physicians and dermatologist who couldn’t explain to her why she was losing her hair.

“This sense of frustration led me to depression and to being suicidal. My hair was falling off and my face was getting discoloured and no one could tell me what was wrong.”

She adds that when she finally got diagnosed, she still had no point of reference on a way forward of treating her condition.

“ My frustrations escalated not only by what was happening to me, but by realising that I didn’t have a clue where to start looking for help. There is a wave of stigma associated with hair loss.”

She adds that although the disease might not be fatal, but some people die slowly on the inside from shame.

“Some have even committed suicide because they couldn't stand the bullying that came with being bald.”

She adds that people with alopecia get teased because of the way they look without hair.

“This I believe happens because the public does not know nor understand this disease. Those who are sufferers are afraid to embrace their hair-loss because hair loss is associated with being sick or getting old.”

She explains that Alopecia can start at any age, and some people are born with it.

“Alopecia sufferers feel a lot of shame and embarrassment to have to deal with loosing their hair for good. Women have a special connection with hair and not having hair can be really difficult to accept.”

She adds that scientists have not been able to pinpoint exactly what triggers alopecia, even though it is believed to be a genetically programmed disorder.

Research shows that chronic stress present for an extended period or an unexpected shock can result in alopecia.

She pointed out that alopecia cannot be prevented or avoided because it manifests itself differently from person to person.

“Eating healthy and keeping your gut clean sometimes can help along with avoiding stressful situations,” she said.

Some people suffer partial loss of hair, but in bad cases every hair on the body falls out, including eyebrows and eyelashes.

More about Alopecia

People who suffer from this affliction have no loss of body function, although those who are totally bald may suffer from sunburn. It can also cause issues with nails as keratin is found in both nails and hair.

Some sufferers report hair growing back, only to fall out once more. Episodes of alopecia before puberty often means there could be a chronic recurrence of the condition as an adult.