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A recent study provides unique insights into alopecia areata presentation in Hispanic/Latinx patients. It found that comorbidities and nutritional deficiencies were common in the group. 

To understand health disparities, it is vital to characterize the unmet needs of alopecia areata (AA) patients from various ethnic groups. This retrospective study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, focuses on AA in the Hispanic/Latinx population. Such a study is especially vital for California, where people of Hispanic or Latinx origin are not a minority, constituting 39.4% of the population, per the 2021 US Census. The study was carried out by the University of California, Irvine, using data from 2015 through 2022.

The Study Identified Certain Comorbidities as Being More Prevalent in the Hispanic/Latinx Population

The study reported many interesting findings, highlighting how the disease presentation differs in this population group. It included 197 patients, of whom 62.9% were female. Out of these, 135 were diagnosed with AA before the age of 40. The largest group of patients were those aged 0–9 years (19.8%). 

Most presented with patchy AA; only 12.2% had beard, eyebrow, or eyelash involvement, and 4% had body hair involvement. Atopy was a common comorbidity, present in one-fourth of the patients, and included allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis. Thirty-five patients, or 17.8%, had one or more coexisting autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (8.6% of cases) and thyroid disease (5.6% of cases). Other dermatological problems were also widespread, affecting 43% of the patients. 

Additionally, the study found vitamin D deficiency in 21.8% of cases. Hyperlipidemia, GERD, obesity, and anemia were other common issues. Of note, unlike in Black patients, in whom thyroid disease was more common, in Hispanic/Latinx patients, rheumatoid arthritis was a more common comorbidity when living with AA. Compared to an earlier study on Black patients, this study found that the Hispanic population was less likely to present with atopy and hypertension. 

The Bottom Line

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A strength of this study is that a hair specialist evaluated all patients. However, the study was limited by its small sample size. Moreover, patients may have also received medical attention outside the center. Nevertheless, this study provides some unique insights regarding AA in the Hispanic population, particularly showing that this population is more likely to present with certain comorbidities, like rheumatoid arthritis. Understanding how AA differs among various population groups may ultimately help reduce health disparities.

Source:

Phong, C., McMichael, A. J., & Mesinkovska, N. A. (2023). Epidemiology of alopecia areata in Hispanic/Latinx patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 88(4), 916–917. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2022.10.049