Is your lupus causing damage to your hair?

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease, in which the body’s normal and healthy tissues and organs get attacked by the immune system, which becomes hyperactive. It leads to inflammation and swelling, including damage to joints, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs and blood cells. More seen in females than males, this is not a contagious disease, although in certain cases women suffering from lupus can give birth to children having neonatal lupus. 

A very distinctive mark of this disease would be a butterfly shaped rash along with hair loss. Now this hair loss can be from the disease itself or from the medications taken to treat it. 45% of people suffering from lupus also suffer from hair loss during sometime or the other. This hair loss, commonly known as lupus hair, is also one of the first few signs of the disease. Generally with lupus, there are 2 types of hair loss that is observed; scarring and non-scarring. While scarring hair loss is linked to discoid lupus ( which mainly affects the skin), non scarring is linked to systemic lupus. 

In case of non-scarring hair loss, one might lose hair all over their scalp or only in a particular localised area. In case of localised hair loss, it is most commonly seen on the front part of the scalp.  It might also affect the hairs growing along the hairline, making them brittle and fragile, leading to eventual hair loss. The hair loss pattern also differs, like one might gradually lose their hair or find them falling out in clumps. Also, along with scalp, hair loss can be from the other parts of the body like eyebrows, eye lashes and body hair. 

The most common concern amongst people suffering from hair loss due to lupus is that whether their lost hair would grow back or not. Well, in most cases of lupus, if one receives treatment, then their hair does grow back. But in certain cases lupus might lead to the formation of round lesions on the scalp also known as discoid. This at times may scar the hair follicles, leading to permanent hair loss.

Although, hair loss can be a warning sign for lupus, it is normal for someone to lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day and as per hair experts, the numbers may slightly increase when you wash your hair. This hair fall is normal considering while 90% of our hair grows at any given time, the remaining 10% of our hair is at a resting phase , also known as the telogen phase which lasts for around 100 days, after which the hair falls. A new hair then grows in place of the lost hair. 

Since there can be many reasons for hair loss, like genetics, alopecia areata, fungal infections and thyroid to name a few, it is very important to consult your doctor to determine the exact reason for the same. In case your hair loss is due to lupus and you don’t have discoid lesions, then in most cases the hair loss would be reversible with treatment. Some common treatments include corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and antimalarial drugs to reduce lupus flare ups. Patience is the key here because it might take months for your lupus to go into remission. 

Although it is difficult to prevent hair loss from lupus, here are certain things you can do to help control the situation:

1 Watch what you eat: 

 Eating a healthy diet, especially one rich in vitamins, proteins, iron, zinc and biotin helps to strengthen and nourish your hair, thereby preventing hair loss. You can even ask your doctor for supplements to help strengthen your hair. 

2 Reduce Stress: 

Stress is one of the main culprits behind hair loss. Coming to people suffering from lupus, it can just further aggravate the situation. Stress relieving techniques like meditation, yoga etc is recommended to help combat stress.

3 Reduce exposure to sunlight:

Although the sun is an important source of vitamin D, which is good for your hair, for those suffering from lupus, it is best to avoid the sun since it can trigger lupus flares and discoid lesions. When outside, it is best to protect your hair from the heat and sunlight by wearing a cap or a hat.

4 Ask your doctor for alternative medication: 

In case you feel that your medications have triggered further hair loss, speak to your doctor about the same. He can prescribe you alternative medication to help control the situation. 

5 Avoid harmful chemicals:

Lupus in itself makes your hair brittle and damaged, thereby leading to more hair fall. Using hair chemicals or treatments which includes harsh chemicals would only end up in further aggravating the situation. Avoid colour, heating and frequent brushing at least until your lupus is under control. 

No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about health and wellness. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.
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