What is alopecia areata, the autoimmune disorder that Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from?
The Oscars always make noise for the right reasons, or not. Well, this time around, much hullabaloo happened when actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald look. As people continue to take sides of who was right or wrong, the incident also turned the spotlight on Jada’s hair loss condition called alopecia areata.
It was in 2018 that the Matrix Reloaded actress had first spoken about being a victim of the autoimmune disorder. Just last year, she took to Instagram to post a video of her bald self, and pointed to the various patches on her head. She wrote the caption, “Mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something. Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… period!.”
So, what really is alopecia areata?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, alopecia areata is a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. Those who suffer from this condition often complain about hair fall in small patches, so much so that it can also go to extremes. The patient may experience complete hair loss on the scalp, while some may witness it in their bodies too.
This condition could affect people from all genders, while several research studies, it more commonly happens before the age of 30. One in five people who are dealing with this condition also have a family member, who has alopecia areata. The rate at which this autoimmune condition is alarming, since it progresses quickly before a person starts to experience extreme hair fall.
The condition can be classified into three types:
Patchy: Hair loss happens in one or more small patches on the scalp or other parts of the body.
Totalis: People lose all or nearly all of the hair on their scalp.
Universalis: In this type, there is a complete or nearly complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and rest of the body.
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Can alopecia areatabe treated?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for alopecia areata so far. However, medical practitoners do suggest certain solutions to help restore your hair. Most doctors recommend the use of corticosteroids, which is an anti-inflammatory drug that is known to suppress the affected individual’s immune system.
There have been recent reports that Baricitinib, an oral, selective, reversible inhibitor of Janus kinases 1 and 2, may interrupt cytokine signaling implicated in the pathogenesis of alopecia areata. These have been short-term trials; longer ones are needed to prove their efficacy.
Does it impact your mental health?
Alopecia areata does impact your mental health, largely due to the changes you experience in your physical appearance. Jada Pinkett Smith had first revealed her condition publicly on her Red Table Talk series in 2018, and called it “terrifying” to deal with. She also spoke about how she would find “handful of hair”, while taking a shower. Eventually, she cut her hair.
In such cases, practicing self-care is critical, which is what Jada truly believes in. In a recent video that she shared on social media, she wrote, “ When we stop making it someone else’s job to make us feel worthy. When we stop punishing, shaming, and blaming them for not loving us in ways we don’t love ourselves. Loved ones can SUPPORT the love we have within. They can’t be a SUBSTITUTE for the love we don’t have for ourselves. Without self-love and respect… we can’t recognize any form of love when it shows up.”
“Stop feeling like it’s your job to convince someone to love you. That’s not true! Your trauma is lying to you. The moment we are willing to take responsibility for the condition of our lives, hearts, and spirits … is the moment we take our power back to create a life and a spirit of love we had put in the hands of someone else to create for us, she added.