Mark Zuckerberg and alopecia areata

Screen grab from Abby Asistio’s Instagram account

What better way to shine the spotlight onto the hair loss condition, alopecia areata, than having social media’s own powerhouse, Mark Zuckerberg, flip that light on.

Filipino music artist, Abby Asistio – a hair loss sufferer – managed to get her picture taken with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s 12-year anniversary celebrations. Her Instagram post, that went viral, showed a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, Asistio and her friend-also an alopecia areata sufferer- flashing the double-A hand sign that symbolizes #AlopeciaAwareness.

What should I know about alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that can start at any age, however almost 50% of all alopecia areata sufferers first start developing the condition before the age of 21. Men and women are affected equally.

  • The baldness may occur in patches or sometimes as total baldness.
  • The patchiness begins typically on the scalp, usually the size of a large coin.
  • The patchiness may be accompanied by some scalp redness, itchiness or burning, although most people with alopecia areata have no associated symptoms.
  • The beard area in men is another region where it can occur.
  • Some people can lose hair on the scalp, eyelashes, beard and eyebrows.

Other people may be first to notice your patchy baldness before you’re even aware of it. The hair loss is sometimes followed by hair regrowth of a different hair colour which can return to the normal colour after some time. The hair follicles are not affected and are capable of growing new and normal hair. It is possible that you will have patches of hair loss together with other patches of regrowth concurrently.

It is believed that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks its own cells that it recognizes as foreign bodies. There are no definite reasons why alopecia areata strikes but possible triggers can be infections, some side-effects of medicines, viruses or certain environmental conditions. It is believed that there is a genetic component involved as well.

Any tests ordered by your doctor, if alopecia areata is suspected, are to eliminate other possible causes of the baldness. In some cases, the alopecia areata resolves spontaneously, completely; or the bald patchiness comes and goes over time. Treatment will depend on how extensive the alopecia areata is and if there is some other underlying medical condition. Flare-ups of alopecia areata are hard to predict and control and you will need to weigh up the unpredictable treatment results with the possible side effects of the treatments.

Possible treatments:

  • Steroid injections or topical preparations
  • Minoxidil topical preparations
  • Topical immunotherapy
  • Wearing wigs or tattooing eyebrows on
  • Counselling
  • Complementary therapies

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By Ian Watson

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