Thursday, June 4, 2009

Unusual Ouchies - Head Edition

**UPDATE June 5, 2009** I woke up at 5 this morning in so much pain! Excruciating :( Somehow I made it to work, but I made an appointment with a dentist for 1:30pm today. I'm hoping that the Excedrin will last me til then.


In September 2008, the boyfriend noticed that I had a small bald spot near the top of my forehead. I was quite alarmed about it. I wasn't sure if it was just that I was wrapping my wet hair in my towel too tightly or something more serious.
I immediately went online and started researching "female bald spots." Though the searches would mainly return Rogaine for Women ads, several others clued me in to alopecia.

Basically, alopecia is hair loss in a spot on the body. At first, I tried not to worry too much about it, but I felt myself becoming more and more self-conscious. Then one day at work, I noticed another smaller bald spot near the top back of my head. I was hoping it was just a larger hair whorl, but after taking a picture with my cell phone, it seemed like a bigger problem.
I've always had strange scalp issues. I already had a pre-existing bald spot on my head (though I couldn't tell you where it is now) from receiving stitches after jumping into a glass table (it's a funny story, I promise). When I moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines, my scalp would have this occasional itch - in humid weather, when it was wet, or even just sitting here. I don't have serious dandruff, though there is some dryness. But I have been mistaken for having lice. One time in college, this girl insisted on checking me for lice in our co-ed bathrooms, regardless of how many times I explained that my scalp was just itchy sometimes (I'm sure she was projecting since she had just cleared her scabies).

But this baldness was on a whole new level. First, I talked with the boyfriend and he consulted some of his Traditional Chinese Medicine books. But I also asked my boss and supervisor because of her holistic medicine practices. They both mentioned not putting too much strain on my hair, putting it in tight ponytails or buns. But it also seemed like it could be stress related. Both of them also thought that it might be related to some intense and recent changes in my life. Quite possible - becoming half the staff of a non-profit org, getting the HPV vaccine, stress at home. It all was adding up.

Within a couple of months, I had an appointment with a dermatologist (their schedules book really quickly! So, if you need a dermatologist appointment, do it sooner than later!). He concluded that it was alopecia, but that there wasn't any specific triggers for it. Being an autoimmune skin disease, it could be stress related, change in horomones, both, or neither. For most cases, hair will just grow back on its own, but there were treatments for it as well. His treatment suggestion was to get a shot of steroids into the bald spots or for me to get a steroid cream. I opted for the cream.

At the same time, I went to a local Dan Dan Herbal, in Allston, MA. After taking my pulse and showing the guy my bald spots, he mentioned that it was related to not having good blood flow to my head/upper body. That was quite interesting actually, considering that my body was working overtime with the HPV vaccine and focusing on the lower body (I'm pretty sure that all of that is so incorrect....but I'm not claiming to be any type of professional here, okay?). But he also gave me a couple of pills to take (about 15 tiny pellets, 3 times a day)

I had several follow-up sessions within 4 months, but it was almost unnecessary since the hair almost immediately started growing back. I'll admit that it was a very long, self-conscious 4 months. Today, it just looks like I have "baby hairs" growing in those bald spots.

Because I felt so self-conscious, I felt the need to be really open about it with all my friends. Interestingly, some of them completely related to the experience. One friend (who is a year older than me) had a bald spot that hadn't seen any growth in close to a year. When I was done using the cream, I offered for him to take it. I'm not sure what the status of his hair growth is currently, but I hope there's progress for him too.

Recently, my boss called me to ask about the progress of my alopecia. After telling her that it had basically disappeared, she told me that her daughter (who is the same age as me) was having the same problem. So, I tried to reassure her that it was an apparently normal phenomenon. But we both mused at the fact that all the people who were having hair loss issues were in the same age bracket. A coincidence? Perhaps. But interesting nonetheless.

I will say, though, that I'm proud that I managed to turn my little experience with alopecia into something useful. For Halloween, I was "The Winner of a Cat Fight".


Now, I'm having another head-centered health issue, possibly stress related once again. Recently, I woke up in the middle of the night with my teeth and jaw hurting with such an intense pain. The next morning, I wasn't sure if I was dreaming it. But the pain returned later that day. After several days of talking to the boyfriend and my boss, and several days of pain and me paying close attention to it (not that I can really ignore the pain), I'm pretty sure I am having a little bout of TMJ disorder (little is not how it feels right now).

Picture from Wikipedia
This week has not been a good week for sleeping early. Yet, it's not been a necessarily stressful week at work either (mainly just a lot of concerns about finances or lack thereof). Yet, when I woke up this morning, I could feel my right jaw misaligning and I could feel the sharp pain in my teeth. Luckily, I was able to make a dentist appointment for next Tuesday. But what to do til then?

I don't want to have to take Ibuprofin or any other drugs throughout the day, though I do have
white willow bark pills at home (which Leti clued me to). But, they don't really work very well, unfortunately. The boyfriend suggested a couple of pressure points for me to try. I've been relying on them all day. They work temporarily and there is still some lingering pain, but the pressure points only really seem to numb the area temporarily anyway. For those who might need some temporary toothache relief, here is the article that I've had open in my browser all day:

How to Relieve a Toothache with Pressure Points |
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Here's hoping that after my dentist visit next week, this is the last of my head ouchies.

1 comment:

  1. apparantely, alex and leah both have tmj (they had to go to the doctor), and i think i have too sometimes... we are in your club now!

    im sorry the tree bark wasnt working... :*(

    im soo happy to hear that you hair is growing back! i have to inspect them when you come down! :D


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