'Losing all my hair as a teenager changed my life forever'

Kerry Edwards is campaigning for the NHS to provide wigs for everyone diagnosed with alopecia.

When Kerry Edwards’ hair started falling out in clumps at just 14 years old, she knew something wasn’t right. 

She was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune condition, but the experience of seeking help from her GP left her traumatised and struggling to cope. 

Kerry, from Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, told Scotland Tonight: “I remember we went into a doctor’s surgery and I was really quite down about it and the male doctor said to me ‘it’s just hair’. I thought, ‘it’s not just hair, it’s my identity’. 

“It affected me quite a lot. I realised I wasn’t going to get any help from the doctor because he just kept giving me this ointment and I was putting it on my hair all the time and it wasn’t really doing anything.

“So I made the decision to get my hair cut really short and just deal with what I had to deal with.”

Alopecia areata is a disease that happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are treatments that help hair grow back more quickly.

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The impact of losing her hair at such a young age has had a profound effect. Kerry, now 43, blames her hair loss for relationship breakdowns and issues around self-esteem. 

She said: “I’ve just blamed my hair loss for everything. My hair loss was the reason that I wasn’t meeting anybody and it was hard when you were going on dates with people because you had to explain this thing, or I felt like you had to explain it.”

Unlike someone who loses their hair through cancer treatment, the NHS doesn’t provide wigs for everyone diagnosed with alopecia.  

That’s something Kerry wants to change.

“I can’t afford to buy a human hair wig, they’re nearly a £1,000 so I’m wearing synthetic wigs now because they’re cheaper. I can’t go out of the house with my hair the way it is. I would rather have a wig.”

Kerry has built a supportive community through her social channels and podcast, ‘AllThingsHairloss’ to help other women going through similar struggles.

Kerry Edwards - alopecia.STV News

She also plans to write a book. Her passion projects connect women who have lost their hair through alopecia, cancer treatments or other conditions, such as female pattern baldness. 

“When I was growing up I didn’t know what to do”, Kerry confessed.

“I now have a community of people going through the same thing and when I started my Instagram account, that was a massive thing for me because I realise there’s people out there like me.

“There are so many different types of alopecia, there’s so many different types of hair loss, there’s so many people experiencing hair loss.”

Kerry is committed to making things easier for other women and wants others to know they’re not going through it by themselves.

“I thought I was so alone. I didn’t know anyone else with hair loss, I thought I was the only person in the world with hair loss, I didn’t know.  

“Doing my podcast, that’s the best thing because it makes you realise what you’re doing is helping other people and supporting other people and that’s what I wish I had when I was growing up. For me, it’s knowing you’re not alone.”

Watch the full report on Scotland Tonight at 8:30pm on Thursday or catch up on the STV Player.

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