Hair loss can be caused by many things, and although hair loss occurring as a result of genetics is more frequent, it can also be triggered by illness and disease.
Auto-immune diseases can have a particularly profound effect on the body, causing not just systemic problems but hair loss too.
Here’s a look at auto-immune diseases and some of those which have the ability to cause hair loss.
What is an auto-immune disease?
The body is protected by the immune system, a complicated set of body parts which includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, white blood cells and lymph nodes.
The various organs and parts of the body which make up the immune system are specifically design to be able to recognise and deal with any invaders. Normally, they isolate and fight any foreign bodies voraciously.
However, when an auto-immune disease occurs – of which there are 80-100 – the body can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and invaders. The result is that it starts to attack itself.
This breakdown in the immune system can result in a wide range of symptoms, including hair loss.
It is of course important that you don’t immediately assume that you must have an auto-immune disease if you start to experience unexpected hair loss. It is a good idea to get any hair loss investigated by experts though, just to rule out any underlying cause.
We’ll now take a look at some of the auto-immune conditions you could be affected by.
This auto-immune disease specifically relates to hair loss and is caused by the hair follicles being attacked by the immune system.
When the hair follicles are attacked by the white blood cells, hair loss occurs in small round patches as the growth pattern in the follicle is directly interfered with. Despite this attack by the immune system, the hair follicles remain alive and have the potential to once again recover full functionality.
Alopecia Areata affects thousands of people in the UK and may attack other parts of the body too. Along with the typical patchiness seen on the hair on your head, the disease can also manifest in loss of hair in the facial area, the eyebrows and even eyelashes too.
A type of auto-immune disease that doesn’t primarily affect the hair follicles, lupus can therefore still have a very profound effect.
No-one knows exactly what cause’s lupus but it often occurs within families leading scientists to speculate that genetics may play a part. A specific trigger then seems to set the disease process off, with a number of problems arising right across the body.
Some of the symptoms lupus can cause include fatigue, painful joints, headache, lethargy, anaemia and clotting, along with hair loss.
Lupus is often dubbed the “great imitator” because the symptoms which arise are common and can be attributed to a number of different conditions.
Also referred to as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s Disease involves the immune system cells attacking the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating a number of activities within the body and damage to it can cause widespread symptoms. Being attacked causes inflammation, which impairs its ability to function, causing an under active thyroid gland.
The disease has a slow progression initially producing few, if any, symptoms but as the level of thyroid hormones in the blood starts to drop, problems start to become noticeable. Sluggishness and fatigue are the first symptoms typically noticed, and then sensitivity to the cold, unexplained weight gain, a puffy face, muscle aches and a hoarse voice occur, in addition to hair loss.
Many auto-immune diseases have symptoms which can mimic other conditions, so it’s important not to panic if you suffer from hair loss. The cause can be far simpler, or even just caused by stress. Nevertheless if you experience hair loss, you should be seen by a professional, to rule out any underlying cause as well as offering a potential treatment for the hair loss.
Image Credits; Bibi Ellis and Mary Mbwizhu