The disease has no cure. Steroid or immunotherapy treatments are not covered by insurance because it’s considered a “cosmetic” condition.
The condition is particularly challenging for children, who are often mistaken for cancer patients, said NAAF spokesperson Gary Sherwood. While classmates and teachers are often sympathetic, a child may suffer from “self-imposed” embarrassment.
“They may themselves feel different and freakish and don’t want to be seen,” Sherwood told TODAY. The best therapy is when children with alopecia can meet others with the same condition to learn, “they are not alone.”
Regal recalls the early days in 2010, when her own hair began to thin. By the time she was diagnosed in 2012, all she had left on her head was a tiny “samurai pony tail.”
“At first, I was completely broken and crying,” she said. “The doctor told me not to stress out, it would make it worse, but how can you do that with three kids?”
Regal said she had a choice: “Buy a $300 wig or groceries.”
Regal found a Facebook group started by Abby Asistio from the Philippines, who became a lifeline and resource. “At the time, I didn’t know my daughter would have the exact same condition,” said Regal. “Abby, who had had alopecia since she was a child, was confident and content. She was a huge support and inspired me to rise above my depression.”