(al-oh-PEE-shah air-ee-AH-tah) is a highly unpredictable,
autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on
the scalp and elsewhere on the body. This common but very
challenging and capricious disease affects approximately
1.7 percent of the population overall, including more than
4 million people in the United States alone. Due to the
fact that much of the public is still not familiar with
alopecia areata, the disease can have a profound impact on
one's life and functional status, both at work and at
alopecia areata, the affected hair follicles are
mistakenly attacked by a person's own immune system (white
blood cells), resulting in the arrest of the hair growth
stage. Alopecia areata usually starts with one or more
small, round, smooth bald patches on the scalp and can
progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or
complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
areata occurs in males and females of all ages and races;
however, onset most often begins in childhood and can be
psychologically devastating. Although not
life-threatening, alopecia areata is most certainly
life-altering, and its sudden onset, recurrent episodes,
and unpredictable course have a profound psychological
impact on the lives of those disrupted by this disease.
Alopecia Areata Foundation. NAAF Newsletter - Number 102.
Note: We are extremely thrilled to have renown character actor
Barry Corbin as our 2001 NAAF Conference closing speaker, as
well as our spokesperson for this year's Alopecia Areata
Awareness Annual campaign in September. Barry has
graciously extended his assistance to NAAF to help raise public
awareness of alopecia areata as well as funds for research.
Please join us at the annual conference June 21-24 in Oakland,
California, where Barry will share his personal experiences in
coming to grips with his alopecia areata.
With permission, the following biographical material was taken
from Barry's Web site. Please log on to www.barrycorbin.net
to see further information on Barry's acting credits and
achievements, and to listen to audio clips and visit his photo
gallery. Accompanying this piece is a letter Barry recently sent
to the NAAF office addressing all those affected by alopecia
areata. In the letter, Barry shares some of his personal
experiences after being diagnosed with the disease, and he
discusses his decision to join our efforts in raising public
glad I'm associated with NAAF, not just because I happen to have
alopecia areata, but because maybe in some way we can bring
alopecia areata to the attention of the general public. I, like
many people who are diagnosed with having this disease, thought
I must be the only one who was afflicted. Everywhere I went I
had to explain to make-up people, directors, producers, and
friends what alopecia areata was. People were constantly asking
my daughter how I was feeling, assuming I was taking
chemotherapy. I even saw in print that I had cancer, and that
can hurt a fella's career in my line of work. They have to
insure actors, and I wouldn't be a good bet.
together we can spread the word, so the next kid who is
diagnosed with alopecia areata will know what it is and that he
or she is not the only one who has it. The reality of alopecia
areata is frightening when it first happens. In my case, I lost
hair behind my ears so I was not aware of it immediately. It was
brought to my attention by a hair stylist on the set of a series
I was working on. At first it didn't bother me because it was
only the size of a nickel. It began to progress, however, until
I lost all the hair on the back of my head, as well as most on
the top and sides. Soon after, I noticed that my beard was disappearing
in spots as well.
finally consulted with dermatologists and hair experts and
nobody could tell me anything. When we discovered it was
alopecia areata, I was told there was nothing that could be
done. So, I shaved my head and have been bald ever since three
years now. I have a wig that I can wear when necessary, but it's
cumbersome and difficult to put on. I've recently come in
contact with someone who specializes in hairpieces for people
with alopecia areata. I'm looking forward to having a wig made
for me, as I'm sure it will be more comfortable and easier to
wear that the theatrical wig I currently have.
I said, I'm glad to be associated with the Foundation because
there is strength and encouragement in numbers. I'm sure if
enough of us band together this condition will become better
known and hopefully there will be some strides made to figure
out why we reject our hair. It's not so hard for me personally,
because I'm an old man and would probably have lost my hair
eventually anyway. But I can imagine the devastation that a
young woman or a young man would experience with such a loss.
keep up the good work getting the word out. I look forward to
meeting all of you at the conference.
Public Service Announcements
Alopecia Areata Foundation. NAAF Newsletter - Number 104.
closing sessions of NAAF conferences have long been
characterized as a touching reflection of the weekend. Bringing
a close to the reunion of old friends and the meeting of new
ones is difficult in any setting. The environment that we strive
to create during the three days that we all have together lends
itself to a difficult farewell.
many, it is a time to say good-bye for another year to a huge
tangible part of our soul, and for all it is the moment that we
realize we must pack our bags, catch our planes, and take all
the strength we have gained from our weekend together back to
our own realities.
how emotionally challenging the two hours devoted to closing the
conference can be, we made the decision to lighten it up by
inviting Barry Corbin to be one of our guest speakers. With his
undeniable poise and his infectious charm, coupled with his
honest experience with alopecia areata, there was no better way
to create a roomful of smiles to combat the tears.
opened his speech with a common story shared by many sitting
below him: the awareness of the first patch. Since Barry was a
character actor on the straight road to stardom one might assume
that the main setback associated with this realization would be
the impact it presented to his career. But like many of us,
Barry's first concern was his health.
being educated on the meaning and implications of alopecia
areata, Barry was quickly able to put his diagnosis into
perspective; he had spent many years watching his grandson
courageously battle scoliosis and cerebral palsy and was
therefore not going to take for granted his clean bill of
health, or the way his young grandson looked up to him as a
source of support and strength.
first his managers, however, were shocked by his sudden change
of appearance. having scheduled Barry for numerous commercials
and appearances prior to the onset of alopecia areata, they were
skeptical about the reaction of their clients. Corbin, on the
other hand, displayed a positive attitude and keen sense of
humor regarding his new look, openly admitting he did look like
a "possum with mange" during an ad he did for Nike.
the ad never was seen on television, but Barry's confidence
didn't falter. He took to wearing wigs that matched the physical
descriptions of the characters he portrayed, an option that he
now views as an asset to his career as an actor.
closed his speech with an eloquent recitation of a soliloquy
from Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Proving to an
attentive audience that the scope of talent of this Texas-grown
actor extends far past countryside roles and cowboy movies,
Barry moved us all with a perfectly appropriate insight into the
course of a life and the importance of choice in deciding how to
You Like It"
the world's stage. And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his
time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages. At first the
infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. Then the whining
schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping
like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover, sighing
like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress'
eyebrow. Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like
a pard, jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel, seeking
the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth. And then the
justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes
severe and beard of formal cut, full of wise saws and modern
instances. And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts into
the lean and slippered Pantaloon with spectacles on nose and pouch
on side, his youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide for his
shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, turning again toward
childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound. Last scene of
all, that ends this strange, eventful story, is second
childishness and mere oblivion. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans
taste, sans everything."