What is Alopecia Areata, its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis and Early Signs

Alopecia Areata: In 2018, Jada Pinkett Smith confirmed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia areata. Learn about alopecia areata, its causes, treatment, and diagnosis. Also, what are the early signs?
Created On: Mar 29, 2022 10:35 IST
Modified On: Mar 29, 2022 13:23 IST
What is Alopecia Areata?
What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata: At the Oscars 2022, Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head, and then what happened shocked the audience both in person and on TV. Will Smith, who won the award for Best Actor, had an altercation on-stage with host Chris Rock. 

Chris Rock compared Will Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett's, shaved head to Demi Moore's look in "GI Jane." He said that he couldn't wait to see her star in "GI Jane 2" due to the way she rolled her eyes. The comment made Will Smith angry, and he walked on stage and slapped the comedian. He said, "Keep my wife's name out of your f**king mouth!"

Will Smith took the internet by storm for his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Read everything about Alopecia Areata, its causes, treatment, and diagnosis. Also, about the early signs of alopecia.

What did Pinkett Smith say about Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is a condition that leads to hair loss. In 2018, Pinkett Smith spoke about "issues with hair loss" in an episode of the Emmy-winning American talk show 'Red Table Talk'. She said, "It was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands, and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, am I going bald?’ It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking in fear. That’s why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it.

A video was posted by Pinkett Smith in December 2021 about her condition, in which she ran a finger across a bald line that had developed around her scalp due to alopecia. She said, "Now at this point, I can only laugh. Y’all know, I’ve been struggling with alopecia, and just all of a sudden, one day, look at this line right here. Look at that."

What is Alopecia Areata?

It is an autoimmune disorder that results in unpredictable hair loss. This happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. Hair follicles are the structures present in the skin that form hair. It is said that hair can be lost from any part of the body. According to Dr. Kritika Bansal, MD, Dermatologist, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida, "It can occur suddenly in any part of your body like the scalp, beard, moustache, underarms, etc."

Typically, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. But it has also been seen that, in some cases, hair loss is more extensive. Most of the people suffering from this disease are healthy and have no other symptoms. Alopecia areata varies from person to person. Some suffer with bouts of hair loss across their lives, and some only have an episode. Its recovery is also unpredictable. Some people's hair regrows, while others do not. The disease may develop slowly and can occur periodically again or repeatedly after years between instances. 

Who suffers from Alopecia Areata?

Does anyone get alopecia areata? It affects men and women equally, and it affects all racial and ethnic groups equally. It can start at any age, but most people get it in their teens, twenties, or thirties. Reportedly, when the disease occurs in children younger than age 10, it tends to be more extensive and progressive. 

If a close family member is suffering from the disease, then there is a higher risk of getting it, but for various people, there is no family history. According to scientists, genetics may also play a role in alopecia areata. Various genes have been found to be important for the functioning of the immune system. 

People suffering from certain auto-immune diseases, like psoriasis, thyroid disease, diabetes, vitiligo, etc., are more likely to get alopecia areata and also have allergic conditions like hay fever.

Causes of Alopecia Areata

As per Dr. BL Jangid, hair transplant surgeon of SkinQure Clinic, the most common causes of baldness in both men and women are:

- Genetic or Hereditary factors

- Aging

- Psychological pressure and anxiety

- Loss of essential nutrients & improper diet

- Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause

- Chronic illnesses or auto-immune diseases

- Hormonal disorders like PCOS

- Environmental factors like pollution, dust, etc.

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata

The main and oftentimes only symptom of alopecia areata is patchy hair loss. Coin-sized patches of hair begin to fall out, mainly from the scalp. 

Itching or burning in the area before hair loss is common. As said by experts, hair follicles are not destroyed, so hair can regrow if the inflammation of the follicles subsides. 

According to experts, approximately 30% of people who develop alopecia areata find that their condition worsens or becomes a continuous cycle of hair loss and regrowth.

Within one year, half of the patients recover from the disease, but many may experience more than one episode. 

Alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis affects approximately 10% of the population.

Alopecia areata can affect the fingernails and toenails. It is also said that sometimes these changes are the first sign that the condition is developing. 

Some of the additional clinical signs are:

- Exclamation mark: Hairs, which occur when a few short hairs get narrower at their bottom and grow in or around the edges of bald spots.

- Cadaver hairs are where hairs break before reaching the surface of the skin.

- White hair may grow in areas affected by hair loss.

Types of Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata (patchy): It is the form where one or more coin-sized, mainly round or oval patches, appear on the scalp or other places on the body that grow hair. It can also convert into either alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis, but commonly it remains patchy.

Alopecia totalis: It results in hair loss across the entire scalp.

Alopecia Universalis: This type of alopecia is more advanced than alopecia totalis. In this type, hair loss occurs across the entire scalp and face, including eyebrows and eyelashes. And also the rest of the body, including pubic hair.

Persistent patchy alopecia areata: It is distinguished by patchy scalp hair loss that persists over time and does not progress to extensive alopecia areata such as totalis or universalis.

Other forms of Alopecia Areata include:

Diffuse alopecia areata: It results in a sudden and unexpected thinning of the hair all over the scalp. Its diagnosis is difficult as it looks like other forms of hair loss like telogen effluvium or male or female pattern hair loss.

Ophiasis alopecia: It has a distinct pattern of hair loss, such as a band-like pattern on the sides and lower back of the scalp known as the occipital region. It can also be more difficult to treat, as it does not respond as quickly to medication.

Treatment of Alopecia Areata

As per experts, it can be treated by using both medical and natural treatment methods. Medical treatments are topical agents, injections, oral treatments, and light therapy. 

As per some doctors, zinc and biotin, aloe vera drinks, topical gels, and onion juice are sometimes recommended to be rubbed into the scalp. It is also said that certain oils, including tea tree, rosemary, lavender, and peppermint, as well as coconut, castor, olive, and jojoba oil, can be helpful.

An anti-inflammatory diet can also be helpful, including meats, vegetables, scalp massages, herbal supplements, Chinese hibiscus, etc.  It is also said that all treatments should be taken under the guidance of a qualified dermatologist.

READ| Explained: What is Lassa Fever, its Symptoms, and Treatment?






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