Suffering from an autoimmune disease can be a frustrating and difficult experience. With over 80 known diseases of this nature that affect different areas of the body, it can be a long process to get properly diagnosed. Sometimes the symptoms that people with these kinds of conditions suffer from can appear to be from other illnesses. Often it can take seeing several doctors and specialists to figure out the best treatment plan. With so many autoimmune diseases out there, you may be wondering what autoimmune diseases cause hair loss?
An autoimmune disease is a condition where an individual’s immune system starts attacking healthy tissues and cells instead of invading cells. For unknown reasons, your body can no longer differentiate between what is you and what is foreign in your body. In addition, the T cells that are responsible for managing a healthy immune response to invaders also becomes impaired resulting in continued inflammation. Hair loss can be a symptom of this kind of disease and it is important to document your symptoms in order to share them with you doctor. It is also a good idea to do some research about your family’s medical history because sometimes these kinds of conditions can be hereditary. One aspect of these diseases that can be frustrating is the fact that there is not one simple answer. Sometimes the condition is hereditary and sometimes it is not. This is why it is especially important to keep your doctor informed about your condition so they can adjust the treatment and diagnosis accordingly.
One cause of hair loss is called alopecia areata which is a disease of the immune system that can cause sudden hair loss in men, women, and children. Alopecia manifests itself by attacking the hair follicles and results can be a dramatic loss of hair from the head and sometimes the rest of the body. This condition surprisingly affects more than 5 million Americans, 2 percent of the population, but the cause of the issue continues to baffle the medical community. This condition can be especially difficult for children and women who have to deal with a sudden change in their appearance. Unfortunately, the lost hair does not tend to grow back and patients may decide to wear a wig instead. There have been studies that are determining the genetic factors that play a role in this disease which is helping the medical community understand the root causes of this condition. New drugs are being developed to help treat this disease and wig manufacturers are making strides to produce high quality, flattering wig options for those in need.
Another cause of hair loss that is autoimmune related is lupus. Lupus has several symptoms including joint pain and stiffness, butterfly shaped rashes on the face, other skin rashes, feeling very tired, kidney issues, chest pain, and hair loss among several other symptoms. This disease works in periods of flare ups and times of remission where patients experience relief from their symptoms. Flare ups can be caused by not getting enough rest of experiencing too much stress, stopping your lupus medications, infection, or being out in the sun. Lupus is a very serious illness and is often difficult to properly diagnosis, like many other diseases of this nature. It is very important to seek treatment for lupus because it can be fatal in some cases. Treatments have advanced over the years and people with lupus are living longer than they have in past. Each person is different and the treatment for lupus will depend on the individual’s response to medications. There are several medications your rheumatologist will prescribe with the goals to reduce organ damage, control flares, reduce pain and swelling, calm the immune system, and reduce damage to the joints. Treating this disease means reducing daily stress, eating healthy, and having a good support system in place.
Hashimoto’s disease is another condition that can cause hair loss. This disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland which is responsible for producing the hormones that regulate many of the body’s activities. This causes the thyroid to become under active. This disease progresses slowly and in addition to hair loss, people suffer from unexplained weight gain, puffy face, hoarse voice, muscle aches, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, and sluggishness. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Hormone replacement drugs may be prescribed to help shrink the thyroid and other drugs may be used to keep the condition under control. Your doctor may decide to surgically remove part or all of the thyroid if you do not respond favorably to treatments.