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Does Lupus Cause Hair Loss?

Your immune system is designed to attack invaders that could harm you, like bacteria or viruses, protecting you from disease and infection. In lupus, your autoimmune system can't tell the difference between your own body and illness-causing invaders, and it goes into overdrive - called becoming hyperactive - and attacks your own tissue.

What is Lupus?

Lupus can make your immune system attack any part of you. This causes inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage to joints, bodily systems, organs, skin, or even your own brain.

It is not contagious, and the exact cause of lupus hasn't been determined. Most scientists believe it's caused by a combination of factors including hormones, the environment, and genetics. Ninety percent of people with lupus are women, and it starts most often between the ages of 15 and 44. There are an estimated 1.5 million people living with lupus in the US, with 16,000 more diagnosed each year. The good news is there are a variety of treatments available that can usually control the lupus symptoms. Ask your doctor which treatment is right for you.

How Does that Affect my Hair?

Hair loss is a common symptom of lupus. It often causes the hair on your scalp to thin, get brittle, and break off; this is most visible along your hair line, and this change in texture and quality of your hair is often one of the earlier signs that you may have lupus.

Your scalp is not the only place you might lose hair; the skin is one of the most frequently attacked organs on your body, and hair loss on the parts that are being affected is common. This can include scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes, and body hair.  This kind of attack most often shows as a thick, scaly rash which can cause permanent hair loss due to scarring of the follicles.

Hair loss can be a side effect of some of the medications, like immunosuppressants and steroids, that are used to treat lupus.

When the lupus goes back into remission, the hair will often grow back. Whether it does and how much it grows back depends on if there is scarring, and to what degree.

If the hair loss is a side effect of the medication, you will need to wait until that course of treatment is done before you can deal with it. Hair loss due to treatment is usually reversible. If you are concerned about hair loss as a side effect, you can talk to your doctor about whether a different medication might also work for you.

What do I do?

Ordinary treatments, chemicals, dyes, and shampoos can make things worse. Your hyperactive immune system might kick into even higher gear due to chemical sensitivities, and could cause you more pain while doing so.

  • Don't put more chemicals on your hair or on your scalp. Use only very gentle shampoo and conditioner, ideally something all-natural.
  • Do not use any creams or over-the-counter hair loss treatments; they might have bad medication interactions, or make your immune system attack you even harder. They are designed to treat a completely different cause of hair loss, and will not work.
  • Find the best timing for washing and tending. Both too much and too little washing can exacerbate loss. Start with every other day and experiment till you find the most gentle routine for your hair.
  • Keep yourself as healthy as possible. Eat fruits and vegetables, and cut out over-processed foods. Get enough rest and exercise. Fatigue can cause increased hair loss.
  • Be careful of light. Lupus can cause photosensitivity; if you have too much sun (or even certain types of light bulbs, like halogen or fluorescent) you can get a rash that can exacerbate hair loss.
  • Do what your doctor says. Untreated lupus can cause serious damage and long term effects, or even death. The best way to treat your lupus-related hair loss is to do whatever is necessary to control your lupus. Talk with your doctors about the hair loss, and see what advice they have. 

Meanwhile, you don't have to just live with the mental and emotional effects of hair loss. This is a pain your disease causes that you can do something about. You can find help that has specialized knowledge of how to effectively help you without making your symptoms worse. This could include things like hair toppers or extensions, or having a comfortable and natural-looking wig to use until your lupus is back under control.

If you have permanent hair loss due to lupus, there are also a variety of options, including hair transplants, prostheses, and wigs. Our team at Mane Image have vast experience and the most extensive and effective variety of options available to help you manage hair loss. You don't have to just grit your teeth and bear it - we can help. Contact us today and get answers!

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