A patient I have recently been treating has kindly given me permission to include a study of her case on my blog. Katherine is a single 24 year old in her first job since graduating from university and moving back in with her parents. She has a boyfriend and plenty of friends and a gentle, kind persona. Her hair is long, dark and very thick, when Katherine noticed she had bald patches on the vertex of her head, the GP had told her that medically there was nothing he could do but gave her some topical steroid cream to use. Katherine decided to consider acupuncture and came for treatment about 1 month after the onset of her hair loss looking pale, and sad but not without spirit and some determination, though she was clearly concerned about the continuing hair loss and the uncertainty of her prognosis.
On examination the largest patch was 3.5 x 5cm in an oval shape and completely devoid of any hair, there was a satellite, smaller patch near by and another smaller patch on the side of her head. On examination, her pulses were thin, deficient and slightly choppy on the Heart pulse. Her tongue was thin, normal colour, with a thin white coat. She had no history of previous illness apart from the very occasional cold and was also presenting with a dry itchy scalp, which had begun just before she noticed her bald patches. Other signs included occasional palpitations, poor memory, dizziness and tingling in her hands. There seemed to be no emotional stress in Katherine’s life, past or present, though just before and around the onset of her condition, she had served on a jury for 6 weeks in a particularly gruesome case.
Alopecia Areata characterised by the sudden onset and circular patches, common in young adults and the middle aged. Patterns identified were Blood deficiency generating Wind, and in terms of Five Element acupuncture she was diagnosed as a Fire CF (Pericardium/Triple Burner).
The treatment principles of this case were to nourish Blood and subdue Wind. Further to strengthen and stoke her Fire element.
Katherine came for 2 courses of 6 weekly treatments making a total of 12 treatments over a course of 13 weeks.
Local treatment – Plum-blossom tapping on the bald area for about 5 -10 minutes. The bald patch became red and droplets of blood appeared which were wiped away. Plum-blossom tapping was practiced every day for 2 weeks, then a break of 5 days before beginning again. Katherine’s mother was able to tap the area for her.
Needling – at each treatment needles were inserted around the periphery of the bald area obliquely and medially and were retained for 20 mins.
To subdue Wind – Du 20 and Bl 12 even method retain for 20 minutes
To nourish Blood – Bl 20 and St 36 tonification method to strengthen the Spleen to make Blood, alternated with the 4 Flowers Bl 17 and Bl 19 also tonified. He 7 was used to tonify blood.
CF treatment – varied from week to week and included, source points P7 and TB4, tonification points P9 and TB3, back shu Bl 14 and Bl 22 and luo connecting P6 and TB7.
Katherine was noticeably more lively and said she felt more energized at the second treatment. By the third treatment very fine fluffy white hair was present but barely visible in the middle of the biggest patch, by the fifth treatment this white fluff had extended all across the patch and we stopped all plum-blossom tapping. Each week the hair continued to grow and became more visible but was still white. By the eighth treatment hair around the peripheries was growing longer and becoming darker. As the weeks progressed the hair grew longer, stronger and darker around the edges of the large patch and just a small 2 x 1cm patch of thick white hair remains in the middle and continues to grow. The smaller patches all have fine dark hair growing within them.
Treatment has been reduced to monthly top-ups at this time but Katherine will monitor progress and come back for weekly treatment if progress is halted. Overall she is feeling well within herself and positive about the future and no longer feels the need to wear her hair extensions every day.
The steroid cream had made no difference to the baldness in the 4 weeks she had been using it so we decided to cease use, especially in light of the daily plum-blossom treatment. Katherine herself also decided to have a break from taking the pill during the treatment in order for her body to have the best possible chance of responding to the acupuncture.
Hair washing – Katherine was washing her hair daily and she cut this down to twice weekly
Diet – Katherine was eating a relatively healthy diet but skipping breakfast, she included a healthy breakfast in her diet.
The success of this treatment is undoubtedly helped by the fact that we were able to treat the condition early and that Katherine was compliant in all life style recommendations.