Alopecia Areata: an autoimmune disorder with an initial symptom “hair loss”

Last Sunday the whole world was shocked, last Sunday a big incident happened during the most important event : The Oscars. During the Oscars event, Will Smith, an American actor, went suddenly on the stage and slapped the Comedian Chris Rock. But why?

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock


During his stand up, Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s talking about her shaved head. This joke was the reason behind the big frustration of Will Smith during the event that made him slap the famous comedian.

Smith’s frustration and violent act were not only because of the joke as Smith slapped Rock to defend his wife after that Rock told a joke about her autoimmune disorder. Jada Pinkett, did not shave her head to follow fashion trends or to seek the public’s attention. Jada Pinkett shaved her head because of her hair loss condition: Alopecia Areata. But what is Alopecia Areata?

Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith




What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia Areata, causing initially hair loss, is an autoimmune disorder. Alopecia Areata happens when the immune system starts attacking, by mistake, a part of your body: hair follicles that form hair. This disorder starts to develop suddenly, just in few days and is linked initially with stress or with having a family history of other autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the NIH (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and skin diseases), there are three main types of Alopecia Areata: patchy alopecia, alopecia totalis, alopecia universalis.

The patchy alopecia is the most common type. In this type, hair loss happens in one or more coin-sized patches on the scalp or other parts of the body. The alopecia totalis type is characterized by the loose of nearly all the hair from the scalp. And the third type, alopecia universalis, that is rare type, there is a complete or nearly complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and rest of the body.

What are the symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

The Alopecia Areata initial symptom is hair loss. It  begins with the loss of round hair patches on the scalp. it may also affect other body parts: beard, eyebrows, eyelashes. There is no signs of rash, redness, or scarring on the patches but signs of itching or burning may be felt on the patches before the hair falls out.

Alopecia Areata can affect both males and females. the males may experience hair loss in their facial hair, as well as their scalp, chest, and back hair in opposition to females who experience hair loss in their scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows.

How Alopecia Areata is treated?

There is no specific treatment for the Alopecia Areata disorder that works for everyone as each type of this disorder has its special treatment. But the available treatments may not be effective for everyone even if they suit the type of Alopecia they have.

People with this disorder can be treated using pills or applied solutions on the skin. Steroid injections can be used also to treat Alopecia Areata as steroids suppress the immune system cells, so hair can regrow especially when injected in the areas where the hair fell out. These treatments can be helpful for people with mild Alopecia Areata.

Regarding extensive Alopecia Areata causing the loss of more than 50% of hair, this type can be treated using oral corticosteroids to suppress disease activity and regrow hair, topical immunotherapy by applying chemicals which alters the immune system by causing an allergic rash or immunomodulatory drugs that are not approved by the FDA for Alopecia Areata yet, and are only available right now in the form of an oral medication, that  have proven to be effective at helping some regrow hair even if they had the disorder from many years.



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