I was losing it—my hair, that is. My husband tried to convince me that baldness is usually a sign of brilliance, dignity, and wit. After all, look at him! I agreed that he certainly merited such a description. As for me, I was just plain discouraged. I didn’t feel very brilliant when I couldn’t figure out why this was happening to me.
Excessive hair loss in people who have kidney disease sometimes goes undiagnosed and can occur in both men and women. If you notice that you are losing more hair than normal, you need to talk to your doctor about it.
The first time I lost a lot of hair, I had been in the hospital for a few weeks battling a bad infection. My hair loss seemed secondary compared to the severity of my infection, so no one paid much attention to it. To me, however, it was devastating, since my hair had always been long and thick. It felt like I was losing my identity, not just my hair.
I had not eaten well during my illness and lab tests finally showed an iron deficiency. Once I began IV iron therapy, my hair loss slowed down significantly. Many people who are on dialysis need iron therapy, so ask your doctor about your iron levels. Eating a nutritious diet that contains adequate protein and nutrients is also essential for hair growth.
Endocrine conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes or thyroid problems, as well as autoimmune conditions, can also cause hair loss. If you lose hair after receiving an organ transplant, it may be a side-effect of the immunosuppressants you are taking. Your hair also may be more likely to fall out when you go through a period of severe stress or after you’ve had surgery.
Your doctor may not think about the relationship of these factors to hair loss unless you ask about it specifically. If you’re losing excess hair, be persistent in finding answers. Also ask your doctor about medications or supplements that may help with underlying medical issues.
Once the reason for your hair loss is addressed, your hair should begin to grow back. It may take a few months, so be patient and treat your hair well. Don’t wash it more than once a day, lather and dry it gently, try to avoid chemical treatments such as permanents or coloring, use a low heat setting on your blow dryer or let your hair air-dry, and wait to style it until it’s already partially dry.
And just between you and me, you can be brilliant, dignified, and witty even with a full head of hair!
Shari Gilford teaches English to refugee families in the USA and to disadvantaged children during her travels overseas. Her first transplant was in 1977 and she received her third transplant in March 2006. In between transplants she was on dialysis
for over 10 years.
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