Hair loss is a condition wherein a person losses hair from any part of the body or head. This condition is also known as baldness or alopecia. More often than not, it is the head that loses significant amount of hair. However, other parts of the body may also be affected.
Usually, when a person ages, and depending on genetics (especially for men), hair loss ensues. However, there are autoimmune diseases that cause hair loss. Autoimmune hair loss is more common than you think. It is helpful to know whether there are underlying causes to the hair loss you are experiencing.
Here are some useful information on autoimmune diseases hair loss and what you can do to manage them.
Overview of Autoimmune Hair Loss
In the United States, more than 50 million people suffer from at least one autoimmune disease. This is a statistic from the American Autoimmune-Related Diseases Association. Autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in women as opposed to men. This usually starts when they reach their childbearing years.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions that stem from the abnormal immune response of normal body parts. There are more than 80 types of diseases that can affect the autoimmune system, which can involve just about any body part.
A body’s immune system is basically the body’s defender against invasion or attack by foreign bodies. Such attackers may be parasites, fungi, or bacteria. These tiny organisms can cause body infections.
The immune system is basically a network of organs, tissues, and cells through our bodies. This network includes the white blood cells, bone marrow, lymph nodes, thymus, and spleen. When the body has an autoimmune disease or disorder, instead of the immune system attacking the bad invaders, they mistakenly attack and eventually destroy the body’s healthy tissues.
There are plenty of symptoms in varying severity that may indicate an autoimmune disease or disorder. The exact cause for the immune system’s inability to function properly has not yet been determined. However, several factors that are risky have been attributed to some autoimmune diseases or disorder.
Risk Factors Attributed to Autoimmune Disorders
Among the risk factors that have been attributed to autoimmune diseases or disorders are as follows:
- Family history: Among the autoimmune diseases that have been linked to familial risk are lupus and multiple sclerosis. Those with parents who acquire these diseases can pass on specific genes that increase the likelihood of the offspring to suffer from a similar autoimmune disease. A combination of other factors aside from genes may also trigger the disease.
- Gender: There are some autoimmune diseases that affect more women than men. Among these diseases are multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Grave’s disease, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Ethnic background or race: There are certain groups that may be more susceptible to some autoimmune diseases. One example is that lupus is considered to be more critical or prevalent to Hispanic and African-American people.
- Environment: There are environmental factors that can be linked or attributed to autoimmune diseases. Some of these factors are exposure to solvents and sunlight. Exposure to certain bacterial and viral infections can also be risky.
Autoimmune Diseases Hair Loss
Among the conditions categorized as an autoimmune disorder or disease, there are only a few that can cause baldness or hair loss. An autoimmune hair loss happens when the body’s white blood cells attack the healthy cells located in the hair follicles. This damages the follicles, therefore stopping hair production.
Despite of this, the stem cells that supply the new cells to the hair follicle are not attacked. Therefore, these hair follicles can still potentially grow. New hair can replace the ones that were lost during the immune system attacks.
The following is a brief overview of the autoimmune disorders or diseases that may cause autoimmune hair loss:
The most popular and common autoimmune disorder that causes autoimmune diseases hair loss is alopecia areata. This disease affects more than 150 million around the world (including the United States). When the white blood cells that is supposed to protect the body attacks the healthy follicle cells or the hair, which makes the follicles shrink. This results to a varying degree of autoimmune diseases hair loss visible on scalps. This can also happen to the hair follicles on the body and the face.
For most cases, quarter-size patches of hair fall off. In its most severe states, the autoimmune diseases hair loss can be a total hair loss on the scalp or entire body. The total scalp hair loss is known as alopecia totalis. The total hair loss for the entire body is known as alopecia universalis.
In the United States, lupus affects around 1.5 million people. Different organs and systems in the body can be affected by lupus. Among the many symptoms of lupus are headache, fatigue, anemia, abnormal blood clotting, painful joints, and autoimmune diseases hair loss.
Lupus is an unpredictable disease. There can be remissions and flare ups. When the antibodies attack the hair follicles, autoimmune hair loss occurs. During periods of remission, hair can grow back. However, if there are scarring on the follicles, autoimmune diseases hair loss may be permanent.
- Hashimoto’s disease
Hashimoto’s disease can cause hypothyroidism and affects around 14 million people in the United States alone. It is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s disease occurs when the antibodies attack the thyroid glands. The thyroid glands produce plenty of hormones that regulate the activities of the body.
The attack on the thyroid glands causes inflammation. This interferes with the thyroid’s ability to function normally, therefore rendering it underactive. A person suffering from Hashimoto’s disease will initially experience fatigue and sluggishness. When untreated, this can cause increased cold sensitivity, hoarse voice, muscle aches, a puffy face, unexplained weight gain, and autoimmune diseases hair loss.
Some people may experience this autoimmune hair loss with thinning of the hair. Large chunks or amount of hair may also fall off during showering. Hair texture may change, making it coarse, dry, or tangle easily. As a side effect of thyroid replacement therapy, excessive or prolonged autoimmune diseases hair loss may also happen.
- Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease is a thyroid disorder that affects around 3.2 million people in the United States. With this disease, antibodies bind to the thyroid cells’ surface. This stimulates overproduction of thyroid hormones. The result is an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism.
A person with Graves’ disease may feel symptoms around the eyes, including inflammation, swelling of the tissues, and bulging. These symptoms are known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
New hair production on the scalp can also be affected by Graves’ disease. The hormonal imbalance forces the hair follicles to prematurely enter the hair cycle’s telogen or resting phase. This effectively shuts down the production of hair. The autoimmune hair loss is eventually visible because no new hairs will grow to replace the hair, which will occur naturally over time.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It is characterized by scaly, red patches in the skin. In the United States, it affects around 7.5 million people. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. However, there are factors that have been known to be triggers of this disease, and these include genetics, food allergies, long-standing infection, arthritic tendencies, and stress.
People with psoriasis grow skin cells abnormally fast. This causes the buildup of psoriasis lesions. The entire body can be affected by psoriasis, but commonly, it can be found on the knees and elbows. The scalp can also be impacted. In severe cases, this can result to redness, scales, and itching.
There is no significant autoimmune hair loss associated with psoriasis. If the scalp has very tight scaling, the diameter of the hair may cause breakage when they change. Psoriasis can sometimes be confused with pityriasis amiantacea, a severe scalp condition which can cause distinctive hair loss that is not an autoimmune diseases hair loss.
- Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the gastrointestinal track. It is incurable and affects around 700,000 people in the United States. There are no known causes for Crohn’s disease. Despite its classification as an autoimmune disease, the connection of Crohn’s disease to the immune system is just a theory. Crohn’s disease is not a contagious disease, although a family history of having it or any inflammatory bowel disease may slightly increase the risk of having it.
Autoimmune hair loss is a lesser symptom of Crohn’s disease. This disease causes severe pain in the abdomen and other related problems. Although autoimmune hair loss is not a common symptom, it is caused by the disease limiting or preventing the absorption of hair vitamins and nutrients. This is normally absorbed through the gut wall and is filtered into the body’s bloodstream. The result is nutritional deficiency. This causes hair follicles to begin shedding and stop regenerating.
Hair Loss Management
There are plenty of ways that autoimmune diseases hair loss can be managed by anyone. the following are some steps you can take to manage the loss of hair:
- Find support: To cope with the problem, it is always important that those who suffer from autoimmune diseases hair loss get plenty of support. It is important not to feel lonely or isolated. There are a lot of support groups for people going through the same struggle with autoimmune diseases and related autoimmune hair loss. It’s always best to get support from people who can empathize with your situation.
- Strategies to manage autoimmune Diseases hair loss: In managing autoimmune hair loss, there are plenty of strategies. You can wear wigs, head coverings, and other kinds of hair pieces. Aside from this, eating a healthy and balanced diet, reducing environmental toxin exposure, getting adequate nightly sleep, and managing stress can boost your health and control hair loss.
Stopping and Reversing Hair Loss
There are hormone treatments as well as lifestyle and diet changes that can help treat the autoimmune diseases or disorders. There are also specific contraceptives, androgen blockers, and steroids that are used to treat autoimmune diseases.
There are also immunomodulators. These are chemical agents or substances that affect and modify functioning of the body’s immune system. Among the immune system responses that can be modified are the inhibition of the activity of the white blood cells and the stimulation of the formation of antibodies.
Here are some naturally derived immunomodulators that can help stop and reverse autoimmune hair loss:
- Soy isoflavones (genistein): Soy isoflavones (genistein) are bioflavonoids. These are mainly regarded as vitamins. They can be found in soy products, as well as other plants that can interact with estrogen, and other hormones. Since the underlying cause of autoimmune hair loss in some autoimmune diseases is hormonal imbalance, the regulation of these hormones through soy isoflavones (genistein) will help with the autoimmune diseases hair loss.
- Litsea glutinosa brevilin A: Litsea glutinosa is a rain forest tree that spawns a dark purple fruit that is also glossy when ripe. As a local fruit, it is commonly used to coat and moisturize the hair and skin. Brevilin A is a substance that is derived from the litsea glutinosa plant. It is a proven Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that is helpful in hair growth.
- Black seed thymoquinone: Thymoquinone is a natural drug that is emerging with its wide range of applications medically. It is an abundant constituent in the black seed plant, or Nigella sativa. It is known as a promising agent in preventing and treating dietary cancers, such as colon cancer. It can also be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumor, antibacterial, and hepatoprotection.
Autoimmune diseases may not be curable but can essentially be managed. On the other hand, there are ways to treat autoimmune hair loss. Plant-derived immunomodulators are very promising treatment for autoimmune diseases hair loss. Consult your doctor to find out more.