Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Doctor Is In
I know it’s been a while since I’ve said anything about it, but it’s a good time to revisit that weirdo bald spot I discovered on the back of my head. You don’t remember what I’m talking about? Well, look here and here. After freaking out about it and watching it get bigger over the last few months, I finally decided to consult a physician to see what was going on. As much as I hate going to the doctor for anything, I was thinking that this could be pretty serious. Hair just doesn’t randomly fall out, does it? Since the weather has been so shitty lately, I’ve done most of my bike riding indoors, which has reduced the time I spend wearing a helmet. Was it a tumor? Do I have some identified form of male pattern baldness? Is my bike helmet infected with some kind of hair-eating fungus? It was time to find out what was going on.
Two weeks ago, I made an appointment to see my regular doctor. I called the office, and was greeted by the appointment-taker.
Appointment Lady: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I’d like to make an appointment.”
Appointment Lady: “Okay, please tell me why you wish to see the doctor.”
Me: “I have a bald spot on my head.”
Appointment Lady: Laughs out loud.
Me: “Uhhh, I don’t think it’s very funny. I’m afraid it might be some kind of brain tumor or something.”
Appointment Lady: “I’m sorry sir. We can get you in tomorrow.”
That was weird. I’m not sure why she thought it was funny. I could be dying or something, and she got a chuckle out of my ailment. When I visited the doctor, he examined my hairless scalp. Being a cyclist himself, I thought he would buy into my theory that it was from my helmet. I was hoping that he would think that instead of the more obvious diagnosis that it was a tumor. He laughed at me when I told him I thought I had a tumor (why is my hair loss so funny?). He said that it was most likely Alopecia Areata, and that I shouldn’t be worried. He even said it was “normal.” I don’t know about that, but it sounded much better than a brain tumor.
After doing a little research on the Internets, I was more worried than ever. This was an autoimmune disorder, and the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles which stops the hair from growing. One of the triggers can be stress, which I have been known to suffer from occasionally. Ironically, one of the photos on the Wikipedia page I mentioned above shows someone with the exact same spot. See for yourself:
Yes, this is me.
My doctor told me that the hair would eventually grow back on its own, but that could take up to a year. I asked about a hair prosthesis, and he laughed again (I laughed too this time.) He said there are two other things we could do. First, he would prescribe a topical corticosteroid, which I would have to apply twice a day. The best treatment though, would be to get an injection in my scalp (yikes!), but I would have to go to dermatologist for that. I would continue to use the steroid cream until my next appointment.
Fast forwarding to yesterday, I showed up for my appointment with the dermatologist. He was a pretty nice guy, and he didn’t laugh at me either. We somehow got to talking about bicycles, and he mentioned that he is an avid mountain biker, and has even raced at a few of the the Summer Series races. That helped put me at ease. We talked about my prognosis, and the methods of treatment. He said I could continue with the cream, but he recommended the steroid shot, which would build up my hair muscles I guess. I got on the table and he began stabbing me in the head with a syringe, injecting my scalp with the medication. It didn’t really hurt that bad, even though he stuck me about twenty times. The weird thing was, he was trying to have a conversation the whole time he was spearing me with the steroid needle. I like talking about mountain bikes and all, but it was a little hard to do while someone is sticking a needle in your skull. After the bleeding stopped, he said I need to come back in one month to check the progress. I would also be getting another round of shots. Oh joy.
So, it looks like I’ll be playing the waiting game now. The doctor and his nurse both said that I should start to see some “peach fuzz” pretty soon, and that it will eventually turn into real hair. My doc said he would probably see me out on the trail sometime soon now that the weather is getting nice. Maybe I’ll even get a trailside scalp exam before my appointment next month, since the good doctor frequents many of our local trails. In the meantime, if you see me out in public, you can stare at my head all you want. I won’t even charge you for it. This freakshow is free, my friends.