Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder where in, the body creates autoantibodies and attacks the healthy tissues in the body. It causes widespread skin inflammation, especially on the scalp and skin. It also brings a lot of physical changes in the body, which affect hair health too. Overall thinning of hair and hair loss are common side effects of this condition. The hair loss caused due to lupus is reversible in most cases when your lupus is treated, but, sometimes, discoid red scaly lesions are formed that can even cause permanent damage. Hence, it is important to get an immediate diagnosis of this condition, so that you can promptly begin with its treatment.
Understanding Lupus And Hair Loss
Lupus has an inflammatory reaction on your face and scalp and hence can cause thinning of hair on your scalp. People who are affected by lupus may notice that they are losing clumps of hair. And, this hair loss is not only limited to the hair on your scalp, you tend to lose hair from your eyebrows, beard, body hair and eyelashes as well. Lupus causes your hair to fall out easily and makes it ragged in appearance, and, this kind of hair texture is commonly known as lupus hair. The hair loss caused due to lupus can be categorized into:
- Systematic lupus – If the hair loss is caused due to systematic lupus, then it is known as telogen effluvium. It is basically caused due to severe illness that flares up the inflammation on the scalp and face. In systematic lupus, you may observe hair loss to be most pronounced in the frontal area of the scalp. Furthermore, the hair loss is mostly patchy and often reversible if your lupus is controlled.
- Cutaneous (or discoid lupus) – In some cases, lupus tends to form thick and scaly lesions on the face, scalp, and ears that kill the hair follicles. In such conditions, the follicles are no longer capable of producing hair and thus it results in permanent hair loss. It is recommended to consult a dermatologist when you observe the following symptoms:
- Unusual thinning of hair overall
- Brittle or scruffy hair
- Loss of hair in the eyebrows, beard, body hair, eyelashes
- Falling out of hair in clumps
How Do I Know If My Hair Loss Is Caused By Lupus?
It is not necessary that your hair loss is due to lupus, as there are various other disorders that can cause it. It is important to distinguish between hair loss caused by lupus or by other disorders that can cause major lumps of hair to fall off. Along with hair loss, you will find yourself suffering from headache, abnormal blood clotting, anaemia, joint pains, and fatigue, which are the other indicators of this condition. In addition, loss of about 50-100 strands a day is completely normal. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist to understand the cause for abnormal loss of hair.
Lupus can be very difficult to identify, as its symptoms fall in conjunction to several other disorders, making the diagnosis of this condition rather challenging. Although, the following are some indicators that point towards lupus:
- Redness, swelling, loss of function in certain places of the body
- Internal inflammation affecting kidney, brain, or heart
- External inflammation on face and scalp
Although there is no one test to confirm this condition, so it is important to rule other disorders out that may cause hair loss. These include severe illness, thyroid, genetics, certain medications, vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.
Also Read: Thyroid & Hair Loss – How To Treat It?
Lupus Hair Loss – Will It Grow Back?
In most cases, if lupus is controlled or treated, the hair tends to grow back. This usually happens in systemic lupus, wherein although the effects are dramatic, but if treated well then things seem to go back to normal in about six months.
Occasionally, lupus can cause lesions on the scalp, which are thick and scaly, and can inhibit hair growth by permanently damaging hair follicles altogether.
How To Treat Lupus Hair Loss?
When it is cutaneous lupus, it is capable of scarring your scalp and causing permanent damage with irreversible hair loss. In such cases, dermatologists usually suggest hair transplantation to be a useful cosmetic treatment. But, note that, this is to be considered only when lupus is in remission with no signs of lupus activity in the last six months and when you are under some therapy that will help in keeping lupus in control.
Do not use popular over-the-counter medications such as Rogaine, as these medications are used for male and female pattern baldness, while lupus is a completely different reason for hair loss. The key to treating hair loss caused due to lupus is to promptly diagnose lupus and to control this autoimmune disorder.
How To Prevent Lupus Hair Loss?
Consult a dermatologist to understand your hair loss/thinning condition in depth and follow the prescribed procedures, as lupus is a confusing condition and can be very difficult to diagnose all by yourself. To prevent lupus hair loss, ensure that you include the following in your daily routine:
- Maintain a log to understand the triggers that are causing the flares in systemic lupus, so that you can avoid them in future
- Follow a regular meditation and workout routine to maintain low stress levels
- Ensure that your body gets as much rest it needs
- Avoid exposure to sun, especially during peak hours (10 AM – 4 PM)
- Ensure that you follow a hygienic routine to treat the infected areas promptly
- Avoid exposure to fluorescent lights
Losing your hair is a nightmare. And, luckily, most common types of lupus hair loss are reversible if promptly diagnosed. It is important to consult a dermatologist as soon as you observe unusual hair loss in combination with internal/external inflammation. With early diagnosis you will be able to swiftly tackle this condition with minimum damage to your hair health and nourishment.