What is alopecia areata?: Austin dermatologist speaks on Jada Pinkett-Smith's autoimmune disorder

It was a shocking moment in Oscars history Sunday night. The world was watching live as actor Will Smith slapped and cussed out comedian and presenter Chris Rock over a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith. 

Rock was referring to Jada Pinkett-Smith's shaved head.

She has been very open about her diagnosis of alopecia, which is why she chose the close crop.

So, you might be wondering- what exactly is alopecia? Simply put, it's hair loss. And, there are several types.

Pinkett-Smith has a condition called alopecia areata. It's an auto-immune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles, causing bald patches on the scalp.

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation says the condition affects about two percent of the population, or about seven million Americans.

It can occur at any age, but most often during the teen years or young adulthood.

FOX 7 spoke to a local dermatologist who treats this condition.

"This is actually an exciting time for alopecia areata. There's new things in the pipeline," Dr. Ammar Ahmed, M.D. and Program Director of UT Austin's Dell Medical School Dermatology Residency said. "So, how do we normally treat it? We treat it with topical steroid creams and lotions and sprays. We inject steroids into the patches of alopecia that people have, that can be very effective. There's other medicines by mouth that are used sometimes, steroids and things like that."

Dr. Ahmed says current treatments often help alopecia areata patients regrow their hair.

To learn more about this condition, click here

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