'It's terrifying' — Ipswich woman loses hair from alopecia in just 6 weeks

Sophie Hitchen has lost her hair to alopecia

Sophie Hitchen, aged 24, has lost her hair in less than six weeks after being diagnosed with alopecia areata. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

An Ipswich woman who is months away from getting married has described the "terrifying" experience of losing her hair in less than six weeks from alopecia.

Sophie Hitchen, aged 24, didn't leave the house for three weeks and "hid from everyone" after clumps of her long blonde hair began to fall out.  

Miss Hitchen, originally from Felixstowe, first noticed her hair falling out when she was getting ready for work one morning in April.

Sophie Hitchen has recently bought a wig after losing her hair to alopecia areata.

Sophie Hitchen before she lost her hair to alopecia areata. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

The sales team leader, who has worked for the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) for the last five years, was drying her hair when a clump came out into her hands.

She didn't think much of it, putting it down to a knot, but as days passed more clumps fell out and she became increasingly concerned.

Within six weeks, Sophie Hitchen, who lives in Ipswich, had lost all of her hair.

Within six weeks, Sophie Hitchen, who lives in Ipswich, had lost all of her hair. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

The situation quickly progressed, with three to four handfuls of hair falling out each day. 

"I was terrified," explained the 24-year-old.

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"I was unable to leave my hair down, as my clothes would be covered. It would fall out all day."

Miss Hitchen called her GP but was given a phone appointment due to Covid regulations. 

After a number of back and forth phone calls and eventually in-person appointments, Miss Hitchen still did not have any answers and felt let down. 

Sophie Hitchen

Sophie Hitchen's hair began to fall out in large clumps. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

She sought help from a hair and scalp specialist in Colchester, who told her she had alopecia areata, and that she would likely lose a lot more hair. 

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition which often starts with isolated patches of hair loss, but can sometimes develop into either alopecia totalis (hair loss across the entire scalp) or alopecia universalis (hair loss across the entire body).

She was referred to a dermatologist at Nuffield Hospital and now takes six oral steroids a day and a steroid ointment for her scalp, with plans to try steroid injections in the future to hopefully stimulate hair regrowth.  

Sophie Hitchen decided to shave the rest of her hair off after losing around 90% of it within six weeks.

Sophie Hitchen decided to shave the rest of her hair off after losing around 90% of it within six weeks. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

She said the experience was "traumatising", explaining that the lack of control is frustrating.

"You try and do everything to stop it falling out by putting your hair up and not washing it, but there is nothing you can do to stop it happening," she said. 

"I cried every time I brushed my hair."

Sophie Hitchen, from Felixstowe, was diagnosed with alopecia areata.

Sophie Hitchen, from Felixstowe, was diagnosed with alopecia areata. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

It got to a point where "enough was enough" for Miss Hitchen and she needed to take back control, so she cut off her ponytail and her fiancé shaved off the rest of her hair.

At this point however, she had lost around 90% of the hair on her head in just over five weeks.

She said it felt "like a constant fight to get help", but to be in control of the situation and to not fear waking up with hair on her pillow was "a relief".

Miss Hitchen thought she would never be happy again and was signed off from work for five weeks, explaining it was a "dark time". 

Sophie Hitchen before she started to lose her hair from alopecia areata. 

Sophie Hitchen with her new wig. - Credit: Sophie Hitchen

She has since bought a natural looking wig and shared a powerful post on her social media pages, showing her bald scalp for the first time. 

Since sharing her story she has received tons of support, along with messages from girls who are going through the same thing and are seeking advice. 

She said she felt alone when she was first diagnosed and had no idea what alopecia even was, but hopes by sharing her story she can help others in a similar position.

To follow her story and to read more about alopecia awareness, follow Miss Hitchen on Instagram.

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