The word alopecia suddenly became mainstream a few days ago, following the scandal during the 2022 Annual Academy Awards. Many argue if the alopecia joke was in bad taste or the assault was an overreaction. Let’s discuss alopecia from a medical perspective for a better understanding.
What Is Alopecia?
Alopecia is the medical term for ‘baldness.’ Indeed, there are several causes of baldness, but it’s safe to say every bald person suffers from one form of alopecia. The commonest form of alopecia is androgenic alopecia(male or female pattern hair loss). In men, the hairline starts to recede and may form the characteristic ‘M’ shape. Some men suffer total hair loss on the scalp. On the other hand, androgenic alopecia in women rarely causes complete baldness, mostly hair thinning. Genetics remains the biggest risk factor for the condition.
Another type of alopecia is traction alopecia, seen commonly in women because of the repeated pulling and stretching during hairstyling. Trauma to the hair follicles ensues from the continuous pulling, and permanent hair loss is possible.
In cicatricial alopecia, scarring is the cause of hair loss. After some insult to the hair follicles, they may heal by scarring resulting in irreversible hair loss. Other forms of alopecia include the one that happens due to stress- Telogen effluvium and another that is often due to anti-cancer drugs- Anagen effluvium.
The last type of alopecia, the diagnosis for Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, is Alopecia areata. Let’s discuss the condition.
Causes Of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the immune system starts to attack the hair follicles leading to patchy hair loss at any site of hair growth, including beards and eyelashes. It can happen at any age and genetics also plays a major role here. However, the exact reason is not known. Although there is no cure for the condition, the good news is that people often recover spontaneously.
It may cause total scalp hair loss- Alopecia totalis or hair loss all over the body- Alopecia Universalis.
How Do Doctors Treat?
The mainstay of treatment is drugs that suppress the immune system (corticosteroids). They may also prescribe Minoxidil, Anthralin, and DPCP- drugs that promote hair growth.
Reference: Medical News Today