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August 4, 2006

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Question from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, USA:

My son started losing his hair about a month ago. It is falling out very quickly on his head, arms and now eyebrows. When my husband was 17, this happened to him also and my daughter, who is now 14, had this happen to her when she was 11. My husband's hair on his head came back. but nowhere else and my daughter lost only her head hair and it did eventually come back. My husband's sister and brother are type 1 diabetics. His sister was three when diagnosed and his brother was 12. They both also have thyroid problems, as does my father-in-law. My husband is not a diabetic and does not have thyroid problems. The endocrinologist did a lot of blood work on our son which turned out normal. She recommended that he see a dermatologist. I have the appointment scheduled for August 9th, but the alopecia specialist can't seem him until April 2007. Do you think this is all related in some way to diabetes? Is there a dermatologist that you would recommend who has seen this type of problem before? Are there any additional tests you would recommend that he have done? I can't tell you how devastating this is to him and to us to have to watch him go through this.

Answer:

This is unlikely related to diabetes even with very poor glucose control. However, both diabetes and alopecia are autoimmune disorders and we do not really know what causes them, although there are many theories. I would be sure that thyroid functions are normal and also adrenal functions. I would also check transglutaminase antibodies for celiac disease, another autoimmune disorder more commonly seen in type 1 diabetes than the general population. You may want to talk to your primary care provider and see if they can assist getting an earlier appointment versus waiting nine months. Similarly, if you talk to the alopecia specialist’s front office staff and ask to be placed on a cancellation/waiting list, often you can fill in at the last minute when someone else has canceled.

SB