Lupus is one of dozens of diseases in which the body’s own immune system attacks one or several parts of the body, causing a host of often-vague symptoms and some serious medical problems. While many of the symptoms of lupus are life-threatening, lupus hair loss can be one of the most psychologically devastating. Out of the many symptoms of lupus, hair loss is one of the least expected.
Especially for women, hair loss feels like a personal insult. First you lose your health, then you lose your hair? Fortunately, though there are no treatments for many other symptoms of lupus, hair loss can be addressed.
The Facts about Hair Loss and Lupus
Hair loss happens in about half of all lupus patients to one degree or another. Those who suffer from it notice two primary symptoms: first, that the hair is suddenly easy to pluck out, sometimes coming out in handfuls. Second, short fine hairs suddenly sprout all along the hairline, often taking the place of thicker healthy hair that has fallen out.
Lupus also has acute periods in which the hair suddenly stops growing. Because this disease has your own antibodies attacking you on a cellular level, your cells are too busy fighting off their attackers to continue growing hair for you. These acute periods are marked by a sudden loss of hair shortly after your lupus symptoms have gone away. Fortunately, though pulling a handful of hair out can be scary, this symptom primarily marks the sudden dying off and shedding of hairs already slated to die.
Lupus flareups can also cause your hair to grow in weaker, making it prone to breakage and damage. And the medications used to treat lupus, such as corticosteroids, are often damaging to hair as well. Don’t just stop taking lupus medications, though; not only are they necessary to treat your illness, but they are preventing permanent hair loss by keeping your symptoms down. Lupus-related hair loss can be permanent if the skin under the hair gets a lesion; the resultant scarring can destroy hair follicles forever.
If you’ve traced the problem to your medications, talk to your doctor to see what can be done. You should also check your diet. Low iron can cause hair loss, as can a deficiency in some of the B complex vitamins.
When everything else is ruled out, you have lupus to blame. Fortunately, in this disease hair loss is generally temporary unless a lesion scars an area of skin and destroys the hair follicles. For this reason, preventing lupus flareups is the best way to keep your hair healthy. Still, in lupus, hair loss will occur, and sometimes despite your best efforts it becomes permanent.