Wednesday 17 January 2018

Warning: wigs for Irish dancing can cause baldness

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE jig may be up for Irish dancers who wear elaborate wigs after doctors warned that the fancy headpieces could leave them bald.

It is no longer enough to wear a crocheted, patterned dancing costume or sport a set of natural ringlets thanks to mother's home hairdressing skills.

Ornamental wigs are now increasingly popular as young Irish female dancers use them as part of their bid to stand out on the competition stage.

However, doctors at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin have warned that the elaborate wigs are in danger of leading to permanent alopecia in young girls, commonly known as hair loss.

Traction alopecia can occur after there is pulling of the hair follicle which can lead to scar tissue building up, and subsequently, permanent hair loss.

It can happen when people braid their hair too tightly, leading to the destruction of the follicle and its replacement with scar tissue.

The risk of this pressure on the scalp is exacerbated by repeatedly pinning wigs to fit tightly on the head during an activity like dancing.

Registrar in dermatology, Doctor Sally Jane O'Shea and senior consultant Doctor Aoife Lally -- who both practise in St Vincent's Hospital -- have highlighted the issue after a teenager came to them with recurring hair loss.

They made the link to wigs worn by Irish dancers after they treated a 16-year-old girl who came to the hospital complaining of a history of hair loss.

The young patient showed two clear patches of hair loss but the hair had grown back. One year on, it happened again and she finally sought professional help after it emerged a third time, the report in Hospital Doctor of Ireland revealed.

When the doctors examined her they discovered there were two patches of scarring on her head.

They also looked at her family history and found there was no known problems.

The mystery was solved however after she told them she was an "avid Irish dancer" and they were able to link the episodes of hair loss with the competition season when she donned a wig.

They were able to trace the patches to where she had fixed the wig to her own hair.

The doctors advised that early hair loss does not lead to scarring but after repeated pressure it can develop over time.

The "unusual case" should act as a caution to other young girls on the Irish dancing competition circuit, the doctors warned.

Irish Independent

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