Lupus: Can it cause hair loss?

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Lupus: Can it cause hair loss?

Question

Can lupus cause hair loss?

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Answer

Unfortunately, yes. A majority of people with lupus experience some hair loss (alopecia, pronounced al-o-PE-she-uh), whether they have a form of lupus that affects several organs or a form that mainly affects the skin. Most of the time, though, lupus is unlikely to cause complete or permanent hair loss.

Hair loss may be an early sign of lupus, before the disease is diagnosed. Lupus causes widespread inflammation, almost always involving your skin — particularly, on your face and scalp. Because of this inflammation and other factors, the hair on your scalp may gradually thin out, although a few people lose clumps of hair instead. Loss of eyebrow, eyelash, beard and body hair is also possible.

Although lupus-related hair loss can be alarming, your hair is likely to grow back when your lupus is treated. The signs and symptoms of lupus often go into remission for long periods, but the disease tends to flare back up unpredictably. You may experience hair loss again if you have a lupus flare.

Some people with lupus develop a rash with round lesions (discoid rash) on the scalp. Because discoid lesions scar your hair follicles, they do cause permanent hair loss.

If your hair is falling out, consult your doctor to find out why. Unless you're already being treated for lupus or you have other signs and symptoms the disease, your hair loss probably has a different cause. Among the possibilities are medications, hormonal changes, thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies, stress and recent fever.

Last Updated: 2010-06-05
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