The event that certainly livened up Sunday Night’s annual Oscar’s ceremony and the topic on everyone’s lips is the Will Smith, Chris Rock drama. In case you’ve somehow missed it, comedian Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s recent decision to shave her hair due to her ongoing battle with Alopecia. This prompted a heated Will Smith to take to the stage and physically assault the comedian. While the internet is buzzing with the hotly debated topic of whether Smith was right to strike Rock and there are many important conversations being had in relation to normalised male violence, we wanted to bring attention to the often-misunderstood condition of Alopecia.
Jada Pinkett Smith revealed her diagnosis back in 2018 and has since spoken publicly about the condition. In an episode of her chat show, Red Table Talk, she recalled the “terrifying” moment she first noticed she was losing “handfuls of hair” in the shower. “It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear,” she said. “That’s why I cut my hair and continued to cut it.”
With an estimated one in four women suffering from Alopecia, the events that unfolded at the Oscars should be a catalyst for conversation and education on this condition and the devastating effects it can have on those that suffer from it. We’ve compiled some useful information on the disease as well as resources for further information and links where you can donate to important ongoing research.
What is Alopecia?
The word ‘alopecia’ simply means hair loss. If you are experiencing any more hair loss than what is normal for you, you are experiencing some type of alopecia. The next step is identifying which type of alopecia you have.
There are many different types of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss), chemotherapy induced alopecia and scarring alopecia. If you suspect you have alopecia talk to your doctor or dermatologist to identify which type you have and treatments available to you.
‘Alopecia’ is often used by doctors as an abbreviated way to discuss ‘alopecia areata’. This can be confusing when there are other different types of alopecia too. If in any doubt as to what type of alopecia your GP is referring to, ask them to clarify.
You can find more information on types of alopecia here.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
The exact cause of alopecia areata is unknown though it is understood to be an autoimmune condition. Research evidence is limited; however, scientists believe it is likely that there are a number of causes/ triggers. It is unlikely to be the same trigger/ cause for everyone. These triggers could be something from inside the body, such as genetics or something outside the body, such as a stressful environment, or a combination of both.
You can read more on the causes of Alopecia here.
What are the symptoms?
You may begin to feel a tingling sensation on the scalp. If alopecia affects the eyelashes then they may become sore due to dust and dirt entering the eyes. While in most cases it is not painful some people report feelings of itchiness, soreness, or irritation at times of shedding or regrowth. Some people with alopecia areata also gain small pits on their nails similar to dimples seen on a thimble.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, as there is no known cause of alopecia, there is also no set cure. However, there are many different treatments that can be discussed with your doctor or dermatologist. The effectiveness of treatments varies from person to person. What may work for one person might not work for another. People may experience regrowth over months or years, but it cannot be guaranteed. 80% of people with only a few small patches of hair missing experience full regrowth within a year but may be subject to further episodes in the future.
While there is no known cure for alopecia there is always research being done and there have been many effective treatments discovered. To support this valuable research being done into the condition visit alopeciaireland.ie or alopecia.org.uk to donate. You can also visit alopeciaireland.ie for more helpful local resources, support groups and information. As with any medical condition, it is important to make your GP aware of any symptoms you begin to experience and always seek the advice of a qualified practitioner .