Understanding Jada Pinkett’s hair loss condition

It affects men and women across all countries and ethnicities, with a lifetime risk of about two per cent, says Dr Nilam Jain Kothari, consultant dermatologist at Mumbai’s Masina Hospital.

The 2022 Academy Awards — despite some rather interesting winners — was dominated by just one thing, The Slap.

It began with American comic Chris Rock’s joke — which many deemed as distasteful — about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

Three years ago, in May 2018, Jada Pinkett had shared her experience (external link) of living with alopecia during the chat series, Red Table Talk, hosted on Facebook.

The actor revealed how she had been wearing a turban to cover up her hair loss which was not an ‘easy’ thing to do.

What is alopecia?

Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune disorder that causes sudden hair loss in patches, eventually leading to baldness. Though it is non-scarring, it is an extremely traumatic experience.

It is one of the most common types of patchy alopecia disorders and second most common type of hair loss disorders after Androgenetic Alopecia (common to both men and women, in men it is known as male pattern baldness).

Alopecia affects men and women across all countries and ethnicities, with a lifetime risk of about two per cent, although it most commonly occurs in one’s 30s and 40s.

An earlier onset age of this disorder is associated with a higher lifetime risk of severe disease.

Types of alopecia

Alopecia Areata commonly affects the scalp. When it uncommonly affects body hair, it is labelled Alopecia Universalis.

Diffuse Alopecia Areata, which affects the entire scalp, is called Alopecia Totalis.

In some cases, it may be associated with other autoimmune conditions like vitiligo, thyroid disorders and atopy (your immune system overreacts or malfunctions, causing a stronger reaction to any allergy).

Patients of AA are predisposed to developing psychiatry comorbidities, anxiety and depression issues.

There are many causes that lead to AA.

Studies have shown that those who get it generally have a genetic predisposition to develop AA. Triggers include infections, severe psychological stress, trauma, post-surgery stress and major illnesses.

Most patients show one to three oval rounds of well-defined hair loss over the scalp.

Limited patch disease recovers spontaneously in around 80 per cent of the patients within a year’s time.

Treatment

An extensive spread of AA warrants treatment. 

Patients with anxiety associated with alopecia, a rapidly increasing size of the patches and an increase in their number also need to be treated promptly.

Treatment is episodic and varies with extent of the progression of disease.

Limited patch disease with a slow spread can be treated with topical steroids and immunomodulatory therapy.

The more extensive Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis need systemic treatment, with or without oral steroids and immunosuppressants.

Minoxidil solution (available in liquid and foam form) is useful in treating stable patches to promote regrowth of hair.

Similarly, patients with anxiety and depression need psychiatric evaluation and subsequent treatment.

A well-balanced diet and stress management is advised to all patients to prevent recurrence.

Some patients go through recurrent episodes over years or decades. The treatment plan for recurrent episodes is based on the severity and progression of each episode.

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