Joe Sargent

The first support group meeting on the Central Coast for people suffering with Alopecia Areata, a disease that causes baldness, will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at Sierra Vista Hospital’s auditorium.

Nearly 4.7 million Americans have Alopecia Areta, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Civil engineering senior Bonnie Lowry felt locals with the disease could use some support.

Lowry, 23, has had Alopecia since she was nine.

“It took three months for all of my hair to fall out,” Lowry said. “For some people it only takes one week.”

Alopecia Areata, pronounced al-oh-PEE-shah air-ee-AH-tah, can strike a person at any age and has no known cure. It is an autoimmune disorder in which affected hair follicles are incorrectly attacked by a person’s own immune system.

Although a physical ailment, it is the emotional side of the disease that has the strongest effect.

“We’re not going to die. There is nothing really wrong with us,” Lowry said. “It is the emotional impact that hurts.”

Looking at Lowry, you cannot tell she is bald. She wears a $4,000 hair prosthetic, which was custom made and looks completely natural, but not knowing who has the disease is part of the emotional problem.

“There are people out there with the disease who are severely depressed because they think they are the only one,” Lowry said. “You can’t tell I have the disease. You don’t know who has the disease.”

The support group will be a place for people with the disease to meet and talk about their experiences with Alopecia. Since Lowry first announced the group, she has received calls from families as far away as Bakersfield saying they are coming.

The support group is open to all ages but is only for people suffering from Alopecia and their families. For more information about the disease, go to www.naaf.org.

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