THE BLOG

Gail Porter's Bravery Is an Inspiration

26/06/2013 13:31 BST | Updated 26/08/2013 10:12 BST

I was saddened to see this week that the brilliant Gail Porter, the television presenter who has become equally well known for her excellent work raising awareness about the hair loss condition alopecia from which she suffers, had been heckled due to her hair loss.

After what was not only a shockingly rude attack, but an example of how far we have to go in terms of raising awareness about various hair loss conditions, Porter explained how she went to confront the stranger who shouted abuse at her. After asking whether Porter was a man or a woman, the stranger then "panicked" and pretended he couldn't see Porter.

The presenter, who has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of her condition since she began to lose her hair in 2005, and who bravely refuses to wear a wig, commented: "I would like to say that I didn't cry, but I did."

I wish I could say that what Porter experienced was a unique case, but the fact is that many men and women are subject to abuse and bullying due to their hair loss. However, whilst 95% of men with hair loss are experiencing male pattern balding, which can often be halted and hair regrown with a medically proven treatment programme, for women things are often not that straight forward.

Hair loss in women is often down to environmental or health-related factors, such as hormonal imbalance, stress and uniquely female experiences such as terminating a pregnancy or coming off the contraceptive pill. In Porter's case, she has the auto-immune condition alopecia totalis, which cannot be treated medically.

To be faced with untreatable hair loss, especially a long term condition like alopecia areata, can cause huge psychological stress and difficulty in everyday life, and women like Porter who are positive role models for others who have been faced with the sudden loss of their hair should be applauded.

If you're a woman experiencing hair loss, there are several conditions that could be the root cause. From the genetic condition pattern hair loss, which must be treated to prevent it from gradually worsening, to telogen effluvium, which is generally short term hair loss that can result from a number of triggers such as chronic stress or illness, and alopecia areata, which can be treated with a high strength minoxidil cream providing it is not too extensive, there is not one obvious cause.

There are also certain forms of hair loss that are untreatable. Thers can be short term untreatable forms such as hair loss from cancer treatment, and there are long term or permanent forms such as the various types of scarring alopecia, and alopecia totalis or universalis.

What many women don't realise is that should their hair loss have a cause such as a hormonal imbalance, a trip to the doctor for blood tests and a visit to a hair loss specialist could mean that their hair loss woes are solvable.

Dealing with the root cause of hair loss is obviously the most important step, but there is one clinically proven hair loss medication for women that can tackle conditions such as pattern hair loss, traction alopecia and telogen effluvium: the topical treatment minoxidil, which can yield great results in terms of regrowth.

We need women like Porter to continue to go without a wig to make others feel like they can do the same if they want to. We also need to spread the message that women need to stop suffering in silence and get a diagnosis for their hair loss, only then will they know whether treatment is possible.