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Autoimmune Disease and Hair Loss

Sometimes hair loss is more than just a genetic tendency toward balding. Several health conditions – including autoimmune diseases – can also cause severe hair loss.

Not sure what is causing your hair loss? BayMed Hair and Aesthetics can help you figure out what exactly is causing the problem.

What Autoimmune Diseases Can Cause Hair Loss?

Alopecia areata is the most common form of hair loss due to an autoimmune disease, but it is not the only one. When you develop this autoimmune disorder, your body attacks its own hair follicles as though they were an invading illness.

Alopecia areata can be an independent occurrence or it can happen in conjunction with other autoimmune disorders – especially thyroid disease. Most forms of thyroid disease cause changes in your hair, but some (like Hashimoto’s) can cause your hair to fall out in clumps sometimes as big as a quarter.

Other autoimmune diseases, like diabetes and lupus can also cause hair loss. Or cause the development of a secondary autoimmune condition like psoriasis which can also cause hair loss.

Can You Stop Autoimmune Hair Loss?

Autoimmune hair loss, like many factors of autoimmune diseases, is hard to predict. According to the National Institutes of Health, some people find that their hair just regrows naturally without any treatment at all. For others, corticosteroids or immunosuppressants may be prescribed to assist in stopping the loss or promoting hair regrowth. In extreme cases, a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor may be prescribed to assist in stopping the hair loss.

The problem with some cases of alopecia areata is that it is not always obvious what triggered the hair loss. It can be due to emotional or physical stress, or it can have no apparent trigger at all.

Is Autoimmune Hair Loss Reversible?

In most cases, while there is no cure for the autoimmune disease, treatment of the symptoms can help stop or reverse the damage. In a condition like Hashimoto’s, for example, regular treatment of the thyroid with thyroid supplements can help regulate the disease and stop side effects like hair loss. With autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease, supplements to improve nutrition can assist in combating side effects like hair loss.

The degree to which your autoimmune hair loss can be reversed depends a lot on the underlying conditions. In general, treatment of the underlying disease can stop the hair loss and then topical treatments (or other hair regrowth techniques) can be used to restore your hair.

For example, with severe psoriasis there are several different topical treatments, from corticosteroids to coal tar, that have been shown to reduce the impact of the disease on hair loss. In some cases, even something as simple as exposure to UV light can help end the disease progression.

Once the underlying disease is under control, the hair may regrow naturally, may be encouraged to regrow with certain treatments, or may be replaceable with a hair transplant.

Can You Test for Autoimmune Alopecia?

Because autoimmune alopecia is often linked to another autoimmune disease, there are some lab tests that may be helpful in identifying the source of your hair loss. Blood tests called an ANA test will screen for lupus and other autoimmune disorders, a thyroid panel can determine if your thyroid hormone is not at normal levels, and a CRP or C-reactive Protein test will help identify if your body is fighting inflammation.

Each of these tests can help narrow down the cause of your hair loss and what potential treatments are likely to work best for you.

BayMed Hair and Aesthetics Diagnoses and Treats Hair Loss

You can talk to your primary care physician about your hair loss and ask them to order the tests you need, but chances are they are not going to be as versed in hair loss and the diseases that cause it as we are here at BayMed. When you contact us for your appointment, we will include screening to help identify the type of hair loss and what further testing you need.

If you are concerned your hair loss might be autoimmune related or if you just want to find out what the cause is, call us today.

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