ABC News 20/20 Reports on Alopecia Areata By Bernard Arocha, MD on March 17, 2015

ABC News 20/20 recently aired a feature story on the experiences of actress Georgia Van Cuylenburg, who has alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in the afflicted person. If you haven't seen the ABC story, we've posted it below.

Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease that results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the condition affects approximately two percent of the population overall, including approximately 6.5 million people in the United States alone. Alopecia areata occurs in people who are apparently healthy and have no other skin disorder.

Doctors believe alopecia areata may result from the body attacking its own hair follicles, which slows down or stops hair growth. It usually starts with hair falling out to form one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp. While it normally begins showing up in the late teenage years, early childhood, or young adulthood, the condition can happen with people of all ages. It can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis). Alopecia is not contagious but does tend to run in families.

As Van Cuylenburg wrote in a first-person account of her experiences, "How I Coped With Losing All Of My Hair -- At 21":

"I told myself that there must be a reason why this was happening. I shouldn't waste my time feeling sorry for myself, I should just find out why. Over the next year I put myself through dose after dose of steroid and cortisone injections. I had the most horrific form of acupuncture imaginable. I ate every food, supplement and vitamin that you find when you Google 'hair loss.'

This reminded us of of the remarkably brave and giving effort by Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell several years ago. As she prepared for the Miss America Pageant in 2011, Martell was very public about her alopecia areata, which resulted in a mostly bald scalp. Many of those who have the condition hide it, so Martell was truly a pioneer and now Ms. Van Cuylenburg is following in those footsteps.

We at Arocha Hair Restoration admire the efforts of both women as they are making it okay for the millions who have areata alopecia to be open about their condition. For those who are interested in learning more, we encourage you to review the extensive review of medical progress published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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