Alopecia is no laughing matter, and Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock, though some critics called it inappropriate, sent Rock that message, after Rock laughingly targeted wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s look during the Oscars on Sunday.
Jada Pinkett Smith has been outspoken about having the autoimmune disease known as alopecia, which creates patchy hair loss.
Pinkett Smith decided to shave her head bald due to alopecia, according to her social media account. Alopecia is a type of autoimmune disease where the individual’s body mistakenly attacks the hair follicles causing hair to fall out, health experts told Fox News.
Dr. Emma Guttman, the chair of the Department of Dermatology for Mount Sinai Health System and director of Mount Sinai’s Alopecia Center of Excellence in New York City, explained to Fox News that alopecia has a lifetime prevalence of approximately 2% and equally affects men and women and all races.
“It often starts from one or two patches but in up to 20% of patients it progresses to involve the entire body hair (universalis) or totalis (entire scalp hair),” Guttman told Fox News. “It is also highly prevalent in children, bringing much distress to the children and the entire family. It is a highly devastating disease emotionally as losing hair has a tremendous impact on the well-being and the way we see ourselves.”
Guttman also told Fox News this condition is more common in patients with eczema or asthma or other allergic manifestations. The dermatologist also said it can be seen in individuals who have a family history of alopecia.
Health experts explained on the Mount Sinai Center’s website that hair loss may also follow a significant event in one’s life such as pregnancy, illness or trauma and that the area where the hair falls out may appear round and smooth. Other symptoms may include an itching sensation or pitting of the fingernails, according to the health experts.
Guttman told Fox News, “There are currently no FDA approved treatments for patients with alopecia areata, but there are several targets that were identified by us and others which are now targeted in clinical trials.”
The experts at Mount Sinai’s center explained on their website that research in this area is looking at the person’s immune system and stated “we discovered the role of the type 2 lymphocytes in alopecia areata, which has opened new avenues for research and treatment.”
Treatment approaches vary depending on the severity of the disease, physicians told Fox News. The Mount Sinai specialists stated on the website that milder cases of alopecia areata may get better on their own but more severe cases may require treatment, including corticosteroids, which can be either topically applied or administered through an injection. Experts wrote they are currently exploring other treatments that include the use of biologics and JAK inhibitors, (Janus kinase inhibitors, an enzyme inhibitor used in certain inflammatory conditions and some cancers, according to health experts).
“Recently, after extensive research, we identified a novel possible treatment for alopecia areata patients, which we adapted from the eczema world,” Guttman further stated to Fox News. The physician said they formed a unique center for alopecia areata that “will bring under one roof state-of-the-art research to identify new targets, together with the latest clinical trials and unique clinical trials to Mount Sinai as well as excellent patient care.”
Guttman said the group aims to find a cure for alopecia areata in partnership with the patients and with pharma companies.