5 Autoimmune Diseases that Cause Hair Loss

by | Nov 16, 2021 | Hair Loss

Did you know that a not uncommon cause of hair loss that occurs before you hit 50 is an autoimmune disease? There are over 80 types that affect a wide range of body parts, so you can expect a slew of symptoms depending on where it hits.

Here’s a look at 5 most common autoimmune diseases that cause hair loss.

1. Alopecia Areata

dr tyng tan autoimmune diseases hair loss alopecia areata

Source: Dr Formulas

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the cells in your immune system mistakenly attack your hair follicles causing the hair attached to it to fall out.

It can affect people of all ages, but it is common in adolescence or adulthood. It is also known to occur over a period of weeks. While it may look bad, alopecia areata does not cause any pain, and neither can it make you physically sick.

The hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter, although some people may lose bigger patches of hair. In some cases, the disease causes total hair loss on the head or generalised body hair loss. The more hair follicles that your immune system attacks, the more hair loss you will experience.

It’s important to know that while this attack causes hair loss, it rarely destroys the hair follicles. This means that your hair can regrow completely, eventually. The less hair loss you have, there is a good chance that your hair will regrow on its own. However, it may fall out again in unpredictable cycles followed by a period of regrowth cycle which can last for years.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for alopecia areata. There are, however, ways to treat it that can help hair grow back. Talk to a hair loss doctor about which pharmacologic treatments are suitable for you. Also, take note that none of these medicines prevents new patches of hair loss or cures the disease, but future flare ups can be treated accordingly.

2. Lupus

dr tyng tan autoimmune diseases hair loss symptoms of lupus

A lupus diagnosis often brings a lot of physical changes. Hair loss is among the common side effects of this autoimmune disease as well as the medications used to treat it.

Lupus can cause the hair along your hairline to become fragile and break off easily. This leaves you with a ragged appearance known as “lupus hair”. In general scalp hair gradually thins out, although a few people may lose it in clumps. It is also possible for affected individuals to lose their eyebrow, eyelash, beard and body hair.

Whether or not scalp hair grows back depends on whether there is scarring, as well as how much scarring there might be. If there is widespread hair loss without any scarring, fallen hair will often grow back. However, if your hair loss is caused by your lupus medication, you may have to wait until the condition is under control to address the hair loss. Such cases are mostly controllable.

Hair loss may be an early sign of lupus before the disease is diagnosed. But there are many other disorders that can cause hair loss. So you must consult your doctor if you notice unusual hair thinning or hair loss.


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3. Scalp Psoriasis

dr tyng tan autoimmune diseases hair loss scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is a medical condition where the immune system turns over skin cells too quickly. Basically, it speeds up the process of skin regeneration causing red, raised, scaly patches or silver scales known as plaques on the skin’s surface. This can affect several areas of your body, including your scalp.

Scalp psoriasis either occurs in patches or it can be widespread. It can extend beyond the scalp and also affect the forehead, nape, or the area behind the ears. It can be mild or severe, with cases ranging from light scaling to thick silvery plaques. These patches of excess cells trigger intense itching that can’t be relieved by scratching. The intense inflammation associated with psoriatic skin lesions can loosen follicles, while frequent scratching and manipulation may cause hair loss.

Fortunately, this condition is manageable. Once scalp psoriasis is under control, most people with hair loss experience hair regrowth. But, while the problem persists, the American Academy of Dermatology Association provided ten ways to reduce hair loss when you’re wrestling with this condition:

1. Gently comb and brush away the scale

To treat scalp psoriasis, you must loosen and remove scale. To prevent hair loss, you should do this gently.

2. Avoid picking off scales

Picking can aggravate your skin, causing psoriasis to flare.

3. Get the treatment on your scalp

For treatment to be effective, you need to apply the medicine or medicated shampoo to your scalp.

4. Keep your fingernails short, and file your fingernails so that the tips are smooth

Scalp psoriasis can be itchy, making it difficult to avoid scratching your scalp. Short, smooth nails can prevent you from scratching so hard that you loosen your hair or cause your scalp to bleed.

5. If you use a medicated shampoo, try alternating shampoos

To avoid overly drying your scalp and hair, try using a medicated shampoo one day and a non-medicated, gentle shampoo the next time you wash your hair. Dry hair is more likely to break, which can lead to perceived hair loss.

6. Use a conditioner after every shampoo

Using a non-medicated conditioner can also help reduce the scent of a medicated shampoo.

7. Let your hair air dry

When you have scalp psoriasis, your scalp is extremely dry. Blow drying can dry your scalp even more.

8. Test your hair care products

Hair color, straightening products, and hair sprays can boost self-esteem, but they can also dry your hair and irritate your scalp. Before using a hair-care product, dab a small amount on your scalp and let it stay there a while. If your scalp feels irritated in a few hours, swap that product for something gentler. Be sure to test every product.

9. Tell your dermatologist if the treatment for your scalp seems too harsh

Skin on the scalp is thick, so treatment for scalp psoriasis is often stronger than treatment applied to other areas. If your treatment seems too strong, tell your dermatologist. Your dermatologist may switch treatments or change how you use the current one.

10. Tell your dermatologist if nothing seems to stop your hair loss

People lose hair for many reasons. Your hair loss could be caused by something other than your scalp psoriasis. A dermatologist can look for the cause of your hair loss.

Since there are several underlying reasons behind your psoriasis, it’s best to get thoroughly evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist. This type of hair loss doesn’t need surgical intervention. Rather, it may need medications, scale softeners, medicated shampoos, injections, or light treatment.

4. Grave’s Disease

dr tyng tan autoimmune diseases hair loss graves disease

Issues with your thyroid are also linked to hair loss. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones. It plays a crucial role in regulating your heartbeat, breathing, and hair growth among many other functions.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system misinterprets another part of the body as the enemy and attacks it.

People who suffer from Grave’s disease have hyperthyroidism, which means that the body overproduces thyroid hormones, causing a variety of symptoms. It can affect your hair mainly because it involves the hormones, T3 and T4, which control and regulate hair follicles. When these hormones go into overdrive, it causes telogen effluvium, a condition where hair follicles go into the resting stage early and stay there.

5. Hashimoto’s Disease

dr tyng tan autoimmune diseases hair loss hashimotos disease
Hashimoto’s Disease is another autoimmune disorder which affects the thyroid and it tends to run in families. It causes the body to attack the thyroid gland, which may result in an underactive thyroid and eventually a damaged one.

Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It prevents the organ from producing enough hormones to regulate metabolism. It may not show symptoms at first, but with an underactive thyroid, some people experience diffuse hair shedding all over the scalp. This will continue until thyroid levels are normalised through medications or other treatments. Surgical hair restoration is not advised if an underlying condition will only cause hair to shed continuously.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association provides a checklist to check if your hair-related symptoms are related to a thyroid problem:

☐ Thinning (or missing) eyebrows on the outer edge
☐ Coarse, dull, dry, and brittle hair that breaks easily
☐ Soft and fine hair with lots of shedding
☐ Thinning hair or balding patches
☐ Growing more slowly (or quickly)
☐ Dry, itchy scalp and dandruff
☐ Less hair on your legs, arms, and other areas

If you are experiencing progressive hair loss, get that symptom checked right away. The solution depends on proper diagnosis. So, get one today before shedding gets any worse. Get the medical treatment and advice you need to narrow down the potential reasons behind this aesthetically-disturbing symptom.

Get in touch with Dr Tyng Tan today at +65 6235 0010 for a thorough evaluation.

About Dr Tyng Tan

Dr. Tan Tyng Yuan, MBBS completed her graduate and medical education in the United Kingdom over a span of 10 years.

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