For Gwennan and Elin Thomas, life was like constantly living with a mirror. These two were identical twins, and they share the same physical features, with only a tiny freckle on the face that sets them apart. But they were never prepared for the one thing that could totally set them apart in 2002. It was the time when Gwennan was diagnosed with alopecia.
Twins, most especially monozygotic ones, pretty much have the same genetic make-up. That is why in most cases it can be rather difficult to tell them apart. But when it comes to hair loss, does it also follow that if one suffers from hair loss, the other is should be shedding hair too?
Alopecia is a condition where a person loses his or her hair in excessive amounts. Unfortunately for Gwennan, what struck her was the most severe form of alopecia, which is alopecia universalis. This means that she lost all hairs from her body; this includes her eyelashes and her brows.
Her hair started to fall out in clumps and left her with very little hair overnight. This led her to have an impaired body image, and to makes matters worse for her, Elin remained unaffected. This caused Gwennan to feel much worse although she wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to her twin. But the sight of her mirror image still endowed with thick locks was a constant reminder of what she has lost.
This was an interesting case because the other twin, who has similar genetic makeup, remains to be unaffected.
In a study that was conducted by Dr. Bahman Guyuron who is a plastic surgeon at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio, he took a sample of 90 male and 98 female identical twins. He had the pair of twins fill out questionnaires that asked them about their lifestyle and habits. Since twins are predetermined to have the same amount of hairs, Dr. Guyuron believed that if one is suffering from alopecia, the reason could be due to external factors.
The results showed that for those female twins the usual reasons for hair loss was related to unhappy marriages, divorce and becoming widowed. The result on male twins revealed that the usual causes for hair loss include smoking, alcohol, and poor sleeping patterns.
This means that the main reason why twin hair loss affects only one and not the other is due to lifestyle choices. But even though Elin wasn’t showing signs of hair loss, this doesn’t mean that she is not exposed to the problem. She still holds the genetic link that could put her at risk for alopecia.
In another case showed here, a pair of male monozygotic twins was struck with alopecia. However one was able to control the symptoms early on by taking a hair loss medication. The other was not concerned about going bald that is why he didn’t take anything to control the condition. This shows that both twins are predisposed but lifestyle factors can aggravate the situation.