Can lupus cause hair loss?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss, among other symptoms. What is interesting about lupus-related hair loss is that the condition causes a variety of different types of hair loss.  In this blog post, we will explore how to identify hair loss secondary to lupus and tips for managing it.


Can lupus cause hair loss
Discoid lupus – a type of scarring alopecia

What is Lupus?

Lupus, or lupus erythematosus,  is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body, causing inflammation and damage. This can affect various organs and systems, including the skin, joints, lungs or kidneys. Lupus is a chronic condition, meaning it persists over time and requires ongoing management. It has periods of flare and remission.  Symptoms can vary widely among individuals and can include sun sensitivity, fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and hair loss. Lupus is more common in women especially African American women.

How do I know if I have hair loss from lupus?

Hair loss, or alopecia, is a common symptom of lupus, affecting up to 50% of people with the disease. It often predates diagnosis of the disease.  Lupus-related hair loss can take many forms.  It can be scarring or non-scarring.  Lupus-related hair loss may be limited to the skin or the effect of systemic disease. It can present as thinning hair (acute lupus or telogen effluvium), to discolored, bald patches that scar (discoid lupus),  to complete hair loss. The effects of medications used to treat the condition, or the effects of the disease on the body, may also be the cause of the hair loss–not the disease.

To determine if hair loss is related to lupus, or another cause, it is important to consult with a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a thorough evaluation. This would include a history and physical examination. They may order blood tests or perform a scalp biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. It’s important to remember that even patients with lupus can have hair loss unrelated to this particular disease.  Hair loss in someone with lupus should not be assumed to be a consequence of that particular disease.

READ: our hair loss expert, Dr. Strachan, featured in The Scratch in The New York Times.

How do you stop hair loss from lupus?

Management of lupus-related hair loss depends on the type. Generally treating the underlying disease addresses the alopecia.  This can involved, injected, topical or oral steroids.  Plaquenil, methotrexate, and more.  Avoiding triggers such as sun avoidance an smoking also facilitate recovery.

What other autoimmune disease make your hair fall out?

Lupus is not the only autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss. Other autoimmune diseases that can lead to hair loss include:

  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disease that causes patchy hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. There is a type of acute lupus that can case hair loss that looks like alopecia areata.  The histologic features under the microscope, however, look like lupus in the skin– not alopecia areata.
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: An autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland and can cause hair loss. This would be a type of telogen effluvium.
  • Celiac disease: An autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system and can cause hair loss due to malnutrition. This would be a type of telogen effluvium.

In conclusion

Hair loss is a common. It is also a symptom of lupus. Whether hair loss is due to lupus or another cause,  with proper management and treatment, it is possible to minimize the effects of hair loss and promote regrowth. If you are experiencing hair loss or other symptoms of lupus our dermatologist for hair loss can help.  Schedule an appointment here!


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