Lupus Hair Loss is directly caused by Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE), a chronic skin condition. It can trigger inflammation to the skin especially in the facial and neck areas. This condition can lead to the development of red lesions with scaly or crusty appearance. Lupus hair loss occurs when these lesions grow on your scalp, it causes damage to your hair follicles. If you leave it untreated, it can lead to permanent hair loss.
Over half of lupus patients have hair loss (alopecia) because of the disease. Often with lupus, the thinning hair is reversible and it is characterized by thinning hair that comes out easily from the scalp when pulled as well as short, ragged, broken hairs along the hair line ("lupus hairs").
When a patient has an acute flare of lupus, the hair does not grow during that time. Because we all lose hundreds of hairs a day, if they are not replaced with new growth, thinning and all over hair loss results. Hair also grows abnormally during severe flares, resulting in fragile, breakable hair. Another cause of hair loss in lupus is discoid lesions that appear on the scalp.
This hair loss in lupus is often permanent if it is not treated quickly, because the discoid lesions cause damage to the hair follicles. In addition, infections and medications, such as corticosteroids used to treat the disease can cause hair loss in lupus patients.
What you can do to offset hair loss associated to Lupus
To reduce the amount of thinning hair with lupus, it is important to inform your doctor if hair loss in lupus occurs. Not only will your doctor be able to treat the hair loss in lupus before it becomes permanent, but generalized hair loss in lupus is a sign that the disease is in its active phase (a flare). Further testing, observation and treatment may be necessary.
Other measures that you can do to cope with hair loss in lupus are to avoid the use of hair colors, perms, curling irons, and hot rollers. You can also keep hair shorter so that less weight and stress is being put on the fragile hair root.
Hair loss in lupus can also be reduced by using rounded, rubber tip brushes and combs with wide teeth, as well as combing hair by holding the hair while gently combing the tangles out from the bottom to the top. Using a mild shampoo (baby shampoo) and conditioner as well as being careful when handling wet hair may also help reduce hair loss in lupus. If possible, let hair dry naturally; otherwise, use the lowest setting on the hair dryer.
Pulling hair tightly into a ponytail or a bun or using clips and barrettes may increase hair loss in lupus. Tell your hair dresser that you have lupus and are experiencing hair loss. She may be able to recommend products or styles that will help reduce the amount of hair loss.
The biggest problem with hair loss in lupus is that for women (and even men), the first thing people notice about us is our hair. Women spend hundreds of dollars on hair products, hair styling, hair cuts, dyes, shampoo and perms. When hair starts falling out or becoming thin, this is very distressing to the patent.
If you have thinning hair, and are depressed or very down about it, it may help to talk to others who are experiencing hair loss. Remember, stress may cause further hair loss in lupus; therefore, keeping a positive attitude, experimenting with fun styles of hats or wigs and having a sense of humor will help.
The positive thing about lupus and thinning hair is that it can be treated and when the disease goes into remission, hair growth will return to normal. If it is a medication that is causing the thinning hair loss, once the medication is discontinued, the growth often will return as well.