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Lupus Hair Loss: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Did you know that lupus can cause hair loss? While systemic lupus erythematosus is a complex autoimmune disease with many potential symptoms, hair loss is one that often goes overlooked. Some of the alopecia variants result in irregular skin pigmentation and scarring. On the other hand, lupus non-specific alopecias are non-scarring and non-erythematous; they are alopecia areata, anagen effluvium, and telogen effluvium.

In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of lupus hair loss. We'll also discuss how to cope with the emotional impact of losing your hair.

What is lupus?

lupus hair loss

Lupus erythematosus is one of the chronic autoimmune systemic diseases that can affect virtually any organ in the body. The cause of lupus is somewhere unknown, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Systemic lupus erythematosus is rare and only develops in approximately one-quarter of patients with discoid lupus erythematosus.

Lupus can cause fatigue, fever, joint pain, rash and hair loss. Loss of eyebrows, beard and body hair is also possible. While anyone can contract lupus, it is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 44.

Hair loss Patterns of non-scarring patch alopecia that are observed in systemic lupus erythematosus include the lupus-specific alopecias associated with either discoid lupus erythematosus, acute lupus erythematosus, subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, or tumid lupus erythematosus. Individuals having alopecia areata are at increased risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus.

How does lupus affect hair?

Hair is one of the most commonly affected areas in people with systemic lupus erythematosus. The hair loss can be diffuse, meaning that it occurs all over the head, or it can be patchy.

In some cases, lupus hair loss is temporary and reversible once the underlying inflammation is treated. However, in other cases, it may be permanent hair loss or irreversible hair loss.

If you are starting to notice patches of hair missing or your scalp is feeling tender and itchy, you should make an appointment with a doctor right away. They will be able to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and prescribe treatment if necessary.

The inflammation caused by systemic lupus erythematosus can affect the scalp, hair follicles and skin. This often leads to complete hair loss, thinning hair or shedding.

Hair loss is also due to the hair follicles resting during periods of high lupus disease activity (telogen effluvium), presumably to save calories and energy in the body for more important functions other than growing hair.

Causes of hair loss in people with lupus erythematosus

There are several factors that can contribute to hair loss in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

The most common cause is the inflammation caused by the disease itself. This inflammation can damage the hair follicles and inhibit their ability to produce new hair.

Another factor that can lead to hair loss is the use of certain medications used to treat lupus. Some medications, such as prednisone and chemotherapy drugs, can cause hair loss by interfering with the natural hair growth cycle.

A third factor that can contribute to lupus hair loss is the stress of living with a chronic illness. Stress can not only lead to hair loss, but it can also make existing hair loss worse.

Possible side-effects of lupus hair Loss

Systemic lupus erythematosus hair loss can have negative physical, mental and emotional consequences. For example, some people may notice that they are more prone to sunburns or windburns after losing a significant amount of their scalp hair.

People with lupus also tend to experience a weakened immune system which means they're at an increased risk for other infections. While some people with lupus develop discoid lesions on the scalp. As these discoid lesions scar your hair follicles, they do cause permanent hair loss.

Systemic lupus erythematosus hair loss can also lead to feelings of self-consciousness and low self-esteem. It can be difficult to cope with the physical changes that come with lupus, especially when they include hair loss.

Symptoms of hair loss associated with Lupus

It's important to note that not everyone who has systemic lupus erythematosus will experience hair loss. The symptoms can vary from person to person, and some people may only experience a few minor symptoms.

The most common symptom of lupus hair loss is thinning and shedding. This can happen suddenly or gradually over time, depending on how severe your case is.

However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it's important to consult a doctor:

  • Thinning hair
  • Sudden or excessive shedding
  • Hair that is dry, brittle and breaks easily
  • Hair loss in clumps

What should you do if you start losing your hair due to lupus?

If you are starting to notice patchy hair loss or your scalp is feeling tender and itchy, you should make an appointment with a doctor right away for professional medical advice. They will be able to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and prescribe treatment if necessary.

It's also important not to panic if you start losing your hair due to systemic lupus erythematosus.

There are many reasons why hair loss can occur, and it's usually not due to something serious. In most cases, the hair grows back once treatment begins or the symptoms go away on their own.

Diagnosis of lupus-associated hair loss

Lupus hair loss can be diagnosed by a doctor. Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination, take your medical history and sometimes skin biopsy into consideration when making their diagnosis. They'll rule out non-lupus causes, ranging from fungal infections to thyroid disorders, rather than simply assuming the hair loss is due to lupus. A hair pull test for anagen and telogen hairs can also be used to diagnose.

Scarring and non-scarring alopecias may have overlapping features and can resemble non-LE symptoms of hair loss. The diagnosis of alopecia occurring in the setting of LE has implications on the classification of SLE. So, your doctor may also order blood tests to confirm whether or not you have systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as imaging tests such as MRI scans of the brain or spinal cord if necessary.

How is lupus hair loss treated?

lupus hair loss treatments

If you or someone you love is suffering from lupus hair loss, please don't hesitate to reach out for help or get professional medical advice. There are treatments available that can help lessen the impact of this symptom.

There are also a variety of chemical treatments available for hair loss due to systemic lupus erythematosus. The most important thing is to seek treatment early before the hair follicles become permanently damaged.

Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Medications such as corticosteroids, antimalarials and immunosuppressants.
  • Laser hair therapy or light treatments for hair thinning in different areas of the scalp.
  • Hair transplant surgery to replace every damaged hair follicle with a healthy one from another part of your body.

However, be cautious when taking dietary supplements for hair growth as they may result in problems with your lupus medication.

 

Natural remedies for treating lupus hair loss

There are also several natural remedies that can be helpful in treating hair loss caused by systemic lupus erythematosus. They include:

Herbal supplements such as saw palmetto, green tea and biotin.

Massaging the scalp regularly with essential oils such as lavender, rosemary and thyme.

Avoid harsh chemicals, products and frequent brushing that can damage the hair.

Styling your hair in ways that minimize stress on every hair follicle.

Using a cold cap during chemotherapy to reduce non-scarring hair loss.

Changing your diet to include more foods that are high in antioxidants and omega fatty acids.

How to track your lupus disease activity?

It's important to keep track of your lupus symptoms and disease activity. You can do this by keeping a journal or using an online tool like Lupus Activity Tracker (LAT). This will help you stay informed about what is going on with your body so that you know when it’s time to see a doctor if your symptoms worsen.

The systemic lupus erythematosus Activity Tracker is an online tool that allows users to track their disease activity and medication usage. It also provides information about lupus treatments, news updates related to the condition as well as resources for patients who have recently been diagnosed with this severe illness.

How can you help others living with lupus?

If you are living with systemic lupus erythematosus, there are several ways that you can help others who are also affected by this systemic disease. You can:

Share your story and offer hope to others who may be feeling discouraged.

Participate in online or in-person support groups.

Write articles or blog posts about living with lupus.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about treatment options for your symptoms.

How can you prevent flare-ups of your lupus?

There are some things that you can do at home to help prevent flare-ups of systemic lupus erythematosus, including:

Get plenty of rest and avoid stress as much as possible.

Eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

Exercise regularly but not too strenuously so you don't overexert your body or cause flare-ups from intense workouts.

Take any medications prescribed by your doctor for lupus exactly as directed.

Avoid sun exposure and other sources of UV light.

Tips for managing your hair if you have lupus

If you have lupus erythematosus, there are some things that you can do to help manage your hair. These include:

1. Keep your scalp clean by washing it with a mild shampoo or soap regularly but not too often (once every two-three days).

2. Use warm water when showering and avoid using hot water since this could irritate your skin.

3. Wear a hat or scarf when outside to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays, which can cause flare-ups if you have lupus.

4. Whether you have permanent scarring or non-scarring alopecia, take extra caution on cloudy days since UV light is still present even when it's overcast out so make sure that all exposed areas are covered up tightly before going out.

5. Use a daily moisturizer to keep your scalp hydrated, which may help with itching caused by dryness or flaking skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. This can also prevent hair shaft breakage from styling tools such as curling irons and straighteners since they pull on strands of hair making it easier for them to snap off.

6. Avoid tight hairstyles like braids, ponytails, and buns which can put stress on your hair and lead to breakage.

Will hair grow back after lupus? 

It is debatable. If you have lupus-related scalp scarring alopecia, hair may not sprout on certain sections of your head. However, treating lupus skin issues might help restore the hair you still have and stimulate hair regrowth in regions without scars.

Non-scarring patchy alopecia and diffuse alopecia in people with systemic lupus erythematosus differ from that of alopecia areata. If you're taking lupus medicines and losing your hair, it'll return once you cease taking them. Talk to your doctor about changing your therapy plan to aid with hair loss.

How to regrow your hair from lupus?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to regrow hair lost from lupus may vary depending on the individual. However, some tips that may help include:

  1. Using a hair growth shampoo and conditioner.
  2. Taking biotin supplements, which are known to promote healthy hair growth.
  3. Using a scalp massage to increase blood circulation and promote hair regrowth.
  4. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water each day.
  5. Avoid tight hairstyles which can put stress on your hair and lead to breakage.
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