Here’s a little fact I learned this week: the average person has more than 100, 000 hairs on their head, and loses between 50 and 100 strands per day. You might be wondering, who cares? Fair enough, and you probably shouldn’t unless you notice handfuls coming out at a time. If you do, there’s a problem.
Angie Strlic first realized this problem three years ago while in New York with her daughter. Walking down the street, Angie’s daughter looked up and asked why the back of her coat was covered in hair. Angie had no idea, but the hair loss kept happening. She remembers crying in the shower as clumps came out each day. “I just shed, like a dog,” she told me. “My hair falls out continuously.”
Angie was losing about 500 strands of hair every day, caused by a condition called aggressive telogen effluvium, or one type of hair shedding for us average folk. I was admittedly surprised when I met her, as she still appears to have a normal head of hair. But for Angie, who is well aware of what she’s lost, her condition has at times been emotionally wrenching. “Hair has a lot to do with how we feel and look, and when that’s happening to you, you become an emotional wreck.”
So why does hair shedding happen? Sunnybrook Dermatologist Dr. Jeff Donovan says, there are several reasons. For some, it can be triggered by a highly stressful event, like surgery or the loss of a loved one. For others, thyroid problems, low iron levels and even crash diets can be to blame. Certain medications can also trigger hair shedding, including some anti-depressants, blood thinners and even some high blood pressure pills. Knowing hair shedding can be a symptom of a bigger health issue, Dr. Donovan says it’s important to get it checked out by a dermatologist as soon as you can.
After being treated for a thyroid condition and taking certain vitamins daily, Angie is happy to report significantly decreased hair loss. She also uses a special powder to conceal any thin spots on her head, and a laser brush for 15 minutes every other day to promote hair growth.
Angie agreed to talk to me about her hair shedding with the goal of helping others like her. Her advice? Follow through with recommended treatments, and no matter what, stay hopeful. “I used to cry and I don’t any longer,” she told me. “I feel good now.”
Monday, February 27, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
I was tucking my son into bed a few weeks ago when he started asking some heavy questions. Normally, I would take any conversation immediately preceding lights out as a stalling tactic, but I couldn’t leave him hanging when he asked if we were all going to die one day.
I took a moment and thought about how to answer him in an age-appropriate way. Pulling out the old “flower” metaphor (used no doubt by millions of parents before me), I explained that life is a cycle, and that yes, every beginning has to have an end. He stared at me wide-eyed, so I quickly added there was no reason to worry because he is young and that’s a long way off. A few seconds passed and then he asked if I was going to die soon, because I’m old. Bruised ego aside, I assured him with a prompt “no” and kiss on the forehead. That seemed to do it as he rolled over and grabbed his bear.
He felt better, but all I could think was I potentially just lied to my kid. What I should have said was “Honey, mommy is doing everything she can to stay healthy, but really, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Plus, some are predicting the world will end this December. Sleep tight!” Honesty is over-rated, plus the kid needed to sleep. What’s a parent to do?
|Want to live for a long time? Go to the gym,|
quit smoking and eat healthy - all things
that have been shown to extend the average lifespan.
While as inevitable as taxes, death is usually far less predictable. That’s another reason why I find all this Mayan doomsday talk such a waste of time. Not only is the idea bunk in my opinion, but it also takes the focus away from what we really should be concentrating on. Want to live for a long time? Go to the gym. Quit smoking. And stop eating foods your grandmother wouldn’t recognize. Aim to surpass the national average lifespan by relying on credible life extending evidence, and hey, if the world gets annihilated by a giant meteor in the meantime, at least you can say you tried (and looked great in your jeans in the process). And as I recently did, you can at least lie to your child with a decent hint of integrity in your eyes. Here’s to making death, and worry, the last things on our to-do lists.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Last fall, a member of my family underwent surgery here at Sunnybrook. He had an incredible surgeon, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. But as many families know, it’s torture sitting in the waiting room, eager for any snippet of news. There are only so many repetitive news wheels you can watch, and eventually, even the most tantalizing gossip magazines lose their entertainment value. As much as we didn’t want to keep bugging the clerk at the check-in desk, we did. So did everyone else. “No news yet? When might we have some news? How about now?” I equate it to driving in the car with my kids, who keep asking if we are there yet. Even after hearing the word ‘no’, they just can’t help themselves from asking again five minutes later. It all made for a very long and tiring day.
|OR Status can be viewed at sunnybrook.ca/orstatus|
I spoke with one woman who used it during her mother’s surgery. “You don’t feel like you’re off in a place and you have no idea what’s going on until the surgeon comes out for you hours later,” she told me. “We knew that things were progressing and going fine, so that was nice.”
OR Status now makes Sunnybrook one of the few hospitals in Ontario to offer real-time information on patients undergoing surgery. What a simple, wonderful idea. Now if only someone could develop a tool to prevent my kids from ever bugging me on long car rides…
To find out more about OR STATUS, click here.