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Regular readers of this blog may remember Lindsay Walter. The thirty-two-year-old American featured in an article we posted last year that looked at how people suffering from alopecia universalis cope with daily life. Many people found Lindsay’s story inspirational. She lost her hair as a youngster and endured a torrid time at school as a result. As an adult, she discovered that long-distance running allowed her to build her strength and fitness and gave her the capacity to forge an identity that wasn’t shaped by her lack of hair. At long last, she seemed able to accept her condition. Recently, however, Lindsay suffered a setback.

Keep reading to find out more!

What Causes Alopecia Universalis?

Alopecia universalis is an autoimmune condition that leads to the complete loss of hair on the scalp and body. It’s a rare condition; it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the whole of the United States, for example. With autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy cells and tissues. In cases of alopecia universalis, the immune system targets the hair follicles, the structures from which hair grows.

The exact trigger for this autoimmune response is unknown, but it is thought to involve at least some degree of genetic predisposition, as it tends to run in families. Researchers have identified certain genes that may be associated with an increased risk of developing the condition. However, having these genes does not necessarily mean that a person will develop alopecia universalis.

Environmental factors may also be contributors. Some theories suggest that certain infections, viruses, or environmental toxins may trigger an immune response that leads to the condition. Psychological stress is also believed to be a potential cause, although its role is not fully understood.

Treatment

Currently, there is no known cure for alopecia universalis. Various topical and oral medications may help, but their impact is limited and may also have side effects. Medications such as JAK inhibitors that modulate the immune system have shown promising results in some trials; it could be that these drugs will provide an effective treatment in the near future.

Many individuals with alopecia universalis opt for cosmetic solutions such as wigs, scarves, or makeup to manage the aesthetic impact of hair loss. Psychological support and counselling can also be beneficial in coping with the emotional aspects of the condition.

Setback

Lindsay Walter advocates on behalf of alopecia sufferers and tries to support young people who struggle with the condition. She set up a pen pal programme dedicated to kids and teens with alopecia. She aimed to use her own experiences to help youngsters in a similar situation. That doesn’t mean that it’s all plain sailing for Lindsay herself these days. Occasionally, she still runs up against the kind of attitudes that take her back to her schooldays.

In April 2023, Lindsay ran the London Marathon. A photograph of herself crossing the finish line caught her eye. She had seen many similar snaps over the years, but this one seemed to capture her strength and determination in a way the others never did. She bought the photo and proudly posted it on social media. One of the first comments posted in response was from someone telling her that she looked like ‘a sick, ugly man.’

Feeling devastated, she immediately took the photo down. Later, she went out for a run and reflected on what had happened. She decided that she wouldn’t let the negativity and spitefulness of one individual destroy all that she had worked so hard to achieve as an advocate for alopecia sufferers. She got home and reposted the photograph.

Positive Response

Lindsay was overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of supportive messages she received when the photo went back online. She felt encouraged and affirmed. She was delighted not only for herself but because she knew the messages of support would also give a lift to other alopecia sufferers. In her own words, “As a kid…had I known someone or seen someone’s alopecia photo go viral, that would have helped me so much.”

Lindsay intends to keep running marathons. She’s also going to keep on being a shining role model for youngsters with alopecia around the world. More power to her elbow. And her legs, of course!

Conclusion

It’s important to consult with a dermatologist or a healthcare professional experienced in treating alopecia universalis when looking at your options. As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for the condition at present, but clinical trial currently taking place may provide more effective treatment options.

If you’re concerned about any hair loss issues, Vinci Hair Clinic can help. We’re one of the largest hair restoration organisations in the world, with clinics dotted around the globe. We offer all first-time clients a free, no-obligation consultation that can take place in person or over the phone using photographs. Just get in touch and book your appointment!