Alopecia ain't no joke 👀, here's all you need to know:
The fancy word for hair loss is alopecia. There are loads of different kinds of alopecia, and each type requires unique treatment, but we want to talk about the form that Will Smith famously slapped Chris Rock for when he joked about it at the 2022 Grammy awards. Jada Pinkett-Smith has alopecia areata, and here’s everything you need to know about this rare form of hair loss.
What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. Basically, your immune system recognises your hair as foreign and tries to get rid of it, resulting in bald patches (about the size of a coin). Sometimes separate patches join and make more noticeable larger hairless patches. It can affect the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, and face. Some people experience this form of hair loss all over their bodies and are unable to retain hair when it does regrow (this form of alopecia areata is called alopecia universalis).
Alopecia areata is a rare form of hair loss, with less than 1% of the population being affected by it. There isn’t a cure for the condition, but steroid injections or creams applied to the affected area can encourage faster recovery. Promising research from Pfizer is well on its way to providing a potential alopecia areata treatment.
Alopecia Areata Symptoms & Diagnosis
Alopecia areata manifests as hair loss. If you develop alopecia areata you might start noticing significant tufts of hair on your pillow or in the shower.
The pattern and extent of hair loss from alopecia areata is unpredictable. Recovery also varies from person to person, with some people having a significant growth period and others facing repeated hair loss flare-ups for the rest of their lives.
Doctors can’t diagnose alopecia areata by hair loss alone, they also need to examine samples under a microscope, and may even conduct a biopsy of your scalp and/or blood tests to rule out other causes like other autoimmune conditions and fungal infections.
How To Treat Alopecia Areata
There currently isn’t a cure for alopecia areata, but there are some treatments geared towards slowing the rate of hair loss, or encouraging new growth faster.
Topical treatments are applied to the top of the affected areas. When it comes to alopecia areata, there are a few creams and gels that can help, but they require time and consistency to show any results. Slow and steady.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment for male pattern hair loss, and it works for mild cases of alopecia areata as well.
Anthralin is another topical agent for alopecia areata . It works by irritating the skin to a tolerable degree to encourage new growth. Topical immunotherapy works in a similar way, triggering an allergic rash with certain chemicals.
Corticosteroids come in cream, foam, lotion, and ointment form are another popular treatment for autoimmune hair loss. They reduce inflammation in the areas they’re applied, helping the autoimmune inflammation to subside and give your strands a break.
Steroid injections are another option for less severe forms of alopecia. Small needles are used to apply steroids to the affected patches every two months
Oral medication is another treatment avenue that can help fight alopecia areata, but they come with side effects that make them a less popular, more risky option.
Cortisone tablets and oral immunosuppressants help reduce hair loss by preventing the immune system’s response.
Cortisone tablets can cause a host of side effects, and immunosuppressants can’t be used for extended periods of time due to their effects on blood pressure, your liver and kidneys, and can even increase your risk of cancer or serious infection.
Pfizer’s New Alopecia Drug
Pfizer has been developing and testing the efficacy of a new alopecia areata treatment called ALLEGRO.
In a study where all the participants had at least 50% scalp hair loss caused by alopecia areata, the new treatment reduced that to 20% or less total scalp hair loss after just four weeks.
Unlike most other alopecia areata treatments, this new drug is the first in a group that blocks the signals that trigger immune cells to adversely affect the body in the first place, rather than try to reduce and manage these effects. Because of this, it’s also being evaluated as a treatment for other autoimmune conditions including vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. It’s ground-breaking!
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that can cause partial or even total loss of hair. While not fatal, it can cause self-image and mental health problems for those with it. It ain’t no joke. As it stands there’s no cure for this form of hair loss, but Pfizer is developing an innovative treatment that could potentially stop a host of autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata in their tracks. Whatever the future holds for people with alopecia areata, we hope it includes more tasteful jokes.
The articles published by &BAM are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. If you have any medical questions or concerns, you should contact your doctor.