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Skin Care and Diseases

Myesthenia Gravis and Related Disorders

08/10/2001

Question:

My mother has been diagnosed with myethsenia gravis. She also has type 2 diabetes. My brother recently lost his battle with a large cell cancer which his doctors believed in the end was a rare form of lymphoma. There is some doubt among family members whether my mother`s diagnosis was correct. My question is this. I am a otherwise healthy 40 year old woman with two children. I have all the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, but tested negative. I have been diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia. Through my research of androgenetic alopecia, the word autoimmune keeps cropping up, and I was wondering whether there is any relation to myesthenia gravis. Although I`m not suggesting I may have myesthenia gravis, I have difficulty clearing my throat, as does my mother. My main goal is to discover the source of my hairloss and have wondered if there was any connection.

I thank you very much for your consideration and response.

Answer:

Your inquiry is a bit confused. I would suggest that you address your activities to a neurologist or internist interested in myoneural dysfunction if you think you might have myasthenia gravis. If you persist in feeling that you have hypothyroidism despite normal testing I would consult an internist that specializes in endocrine disorders.

The loss of hair which you indicate has been called androgenic alopecia does begin to occur in women as well as men as early as the second and third decade of life. It can be characterized by patterns or simply involution of hair. That is to say the hairs become small in diameter and have a shorter growth period and ultimately revert to small fluffy hairs (called vellus hairs). Androgenic alopecia is not an immune mediated form of hair loss but is the reflection of genetic predisposition and hormonal responsiveness to that genetic predisposition.

Since the cause of your alopecia has not been clearly defined I would urge you to see a board certified dermatologist who has expertise in female hair loss. Dr. Vera Price at the University of California in San Francisco and Dr. Wilma Bergfeld of the Cleveland Clinic are the two most notable dermatologists specializing in the hair loss of women. There are, however, numerous very well qualified board certified dermatologists who can be of assistance to you. They need to examine you and possibly biopsy the scalp to be certain of the etiology of the hair loss.

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati