Alopecia areata, the autoimmune disorder Jada Pinkett Smith has, can make hair fall out of the scalp in patches. It can also affect other parts of the body, like eyebrows and nose hair.
According to American Academy of Dermatology Association Alopecia areata as an autoimmune disease mistakenly attacks a part of your body.
Cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles (the part of your body that makes hair). This attack on a hair follicle causes the attached hair to fall out.
The more hair follicles that your immune system attacks, the more hair loss you will have.
The AADA says while this attack causes hair loss, the attack rarely destroys the hair follicles. This means that your hair can regrow. The less hair loss you have, the more likely it is that your hair will regrow on its own.
All You Need To Know About “Alopecia Areata” Hair Loss Condition Affecting Jada Pinkett Smith
Can a vitamin D deficiency cause alopecia areata?
Studies have found that people with certain autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, have a vitamin D deficiency
Because alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, scientists have looked at the vitamin D levels in people who have alopecia areata.
Some people did have a vitamin D deficiency, but others didn’t. More research is needed before we know whether low levels of vitamin D play a role in causing this disease.
Who gets alopecia areata?
While anyone can get alopecia areata, some people have a greater risk of developing it. Those most likely to get it have:
A close blood relative with alopecia areata: It’s estimated that about 10% to 20% of people with alopecia areata have a family member who has it. Because many people try to hide hair loss, this percentage may be higher.
Asthma, hay fever, atopic dermatitis, thyroid disease, vitiligo, or Down syndrome: Research shows that people who have one of these diseases are more likely to get alopecia areata.
Alopecia can come on quickly, is unpredictable and can be incredibly tough to deal with mentally, said Brett King, a hair loss expert at Yale Medicine.
“Imagine if you woke up today missing half of an eyebrow,” he said.
“That unpredictability is one of the things that’s so mentally treacherous and awful because you have no control of it … it’s a disease that strips people of their identity.”
While seldom discussed, it’s actually fairly common: the second biggest cause of hair loss, after male or female pattern balding.
About 2% of people have it. It’s not physically painful, in some cases it spontaneously goes away and it can be treated.
HOW IT AFFECTS WOMEN?
Hair is a large part of anyone’s appearance, and for women it’s bound up with cultural concepts about what makes them look feminine.
“Most women are expected to have good hair,” said William Yates, a Black Chicago-based certified hair loss surgeon.
“They’re well aware that men lose their hair and ‘bald gracefully,’ so to speak, but a female losing their hair is devastating.”
The condition also tends to hit people when they are relatively young.
Most are diagnosed before age 40, and about half of them are children when the disorder first appears, said Christopher English, a board-certified dermatologist for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City.
Having the condition is especially tough for teenagers, for whom appearance anxiety and peer pressure are often already at an all-time high, said Gary Sherwood, communications director at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
In Elkhart, Indiana, a 12-year-old girl with the disorder took her own life this month after she was bullied at school, her family has said.
Some studies have also pointed to the disease being more prevalent among Black and Latino people, Sherwood and Yates said.
The National Institutes of Health states it affects all racial and ethnic groups, men and women.
Chris Rock’s joke was “not unusual,” Sherwood said. “This has been around as long as there have been humans on Earth … for centuries people would not talk about it.”
He’s hoping one good outcome of the Oscars slap will be more education, awareness and empathy.