I have been reading some recent posts of members of this site who are watching their hair grow back--congratulations! It is a great feeling to see progress. I had my first major attack of AA in 2007 and lost about 70% of my hair. I wore a wig for a few months, and then it grew back pretty rapidly, and I was able to ditch the wig and add in extensions to even out the short areas.
During the summer/fall of 2007, I went to every doctor I could think of and had all sorts of blood work done, and of course, everyone just threw up their hands. Then over dinner with a friend one night, as I gobbled down a nice tuna steak, she had the epiphany that I might have mercury poisoning! That maybe the stress it was producing on my body could have triggered the AA response.
I went to the doctor who everyone sees in LA (Hans Gruenn) for heavy metal exposure (mercury, lead, arsenic...) and learned that this is a big problem right now. That many, many people are getting sick from fish and developing various autoimmune diseases and other problems. The test for mercury is more involved than a simple blood test you could request from your intern. But once I had all the testing done, my mercury levels were a 55--where a normal person should have levels below 10.
Since 2007, I have been very, very careful about fish consumption. I went to the EPA website and found a whole list of every edible fish and average mercury counts. I tried to stick to fresh water fish like wild salmon and trout, and northern, small fish like cod. With Dr. Gruenn, I went through 6 courses of chelation (a means of drawing the mercury out of your system). After a few months, I was able to get my levels back down to near normal.
Now here's the kicker--I was AA-free and all my hair grew back since early 2008 and feeling great. But last early spring, the AA came back again. Slowly at first, and then in late September, it amped up and I lost most of my hair. I shaved it off mid December and bought two Follea wigs (which are a life-saver: no clips or tape! And I don't want to glue anything down to promote hair regrowth).
I went back to Dr. Gruenn because blood work from my intern suggested my mercury levels were up again. After comprehensive testing again, my mercury was back up to a 54! I was shocked. But it coincided very closely with the AA relapse again. We have since talked a lot about it, and I have to regard mercury as something my body cannot pass. That is not to say others may not be able to rid themselves of it easier. I have friends who eat fish all the time and do not have high mercury levels (believe me, they have done the testing when they saw what happened to me). I now have to just stay away from fish indefinitely and see how it goes.
My hair IS growing back, albeit slowly. And it is coming in mostly white (where I never had gray hair before), but my doctor said that is common because AA can affect the pigment. So I am just biding my time with my new wigs. The help me at least feel somewhat normal without the pitiful stares of strangers in public.
I just wanted to put this info out there in case any of you might think you could possibly had your AA exasperated by heavy metal exposure. It is, of course, not the CAUSE of AA, but it can be (as I believe in my case) a dangerous stressor that may have prompted this relapse. Just like severe stress may or other major illnesses.
If you think you should explore whether mercury or lead or arsenic may be in your system (all coming from our contaminated oceans) look for a doctor in your area who does this kind of testing. Most regular internists do NOT. If you can't find one, look up Dr. Hans Gruenn in Los Angeles, call his office and ask if they may have a reference. And go to the EPA website and look up the list of mercury counts in edible fish. It is a horrible thing to think about, but I wish I knew more about it prior to 2007.
And for the record, I am NOT some holistic medicine freak. I have always been grounded in traditional medicines and treatments. But this whole experience changed my perspective about a lot of things.
Good luck to all!