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Dermatologist Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, has been in medicine for more than 13 years and practices in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Kaminska has a wealth of knowledge on skin conditions. We discuss the topic of racial disparities among patients with alopecia areata. She gave a bit of background on the disease, the history, and treatment, and dove into her findings about why this discrepancy exists.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss in round patches on the scalp or body. Dr. Kaminska says we don’t yet know why this is true, but she believes that cultural differences may play a role.

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How can providers assist patients dealing with stigmas associated with alopecia?

Dr. Kaminska

“Let’s define alopecia. Alopecia means hair loss, and there are many different forms and types of alopecia. Regardless of the form, alopecia can be very distressing because people present themselves with their hair to society. How we wear our hair, and how we care for our hair are all parts of our identity. So the first thing that needs to happen is one should probably get a diagnosis to determine what type of alopecia that they have, and then that will give us further information on how to treat or manage the condition.”

Are there barriers to properly diagnose alopecia in patients of color?

Dr. Kaminska

“This is a great question. Patients of color sometimes are nervous to come in to see a dermatologist, especially if they don’t see someone that looks like them. The reason being is, you know, especially in skin of color, as a Black woman, the way I style my hair and the products I may use in my hair may not be something that a dermatologist who is non-skin of color maybe familiar with. I may be, if I’m wearing extensions or braids, I may be nervous to remove those things to display my scalp. These are a lot of the barriers that I hear personally from those that seek me out. So a lot of my female patients with hair loss with alopecia specifically, we’ll say they have let their alopecia progress and I ask them what, you know, what has kept you from being evaluated? They said they were nervous to see someone and they had a difficult time finding a doctor of color to look at their scalp.”

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