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Autoimmune Hair Loss? Which Diseases Lead to Hair Loss?

There are two reasons for autoimmune disease causing hair loss: the autoimmune disease directly affects the hair by attacking the hair follicle or it indirectly causes a disturbance.

Autoimmune hair loss can happen to anyone. Sometimes it is rare, sometimes it just happens. The symptoms are almost unique to autoimmune responses, so they are not caused by external factors.

To help manage or intervene with autoimmune hair loss, it is important to know which one you’re dealing with.

This article points out:

  • THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AUTOIMMUNE AND HAIR LOSS CAN BE DIRECT OR INDIRECT.
  • AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES CAN CAUSE HAIR LOSS.
  • AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES MAY NOT ALWAYS CAUSE HAIR LOSS UNLESS THEY DIRECTLY AFFECT HAIR FOLLICLES.
  • HAIR LOSS DUE TO AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE CAN BE STOPPED OR HELPED WITH.
  • HAIR TRANSPLANT DOES NOT HELP WITH ALOPECIA VARIANTS.
  • FISH OIL MAY CAUSE HAIR LOSS IN PEOPLE WITH AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.
  • DIETARY PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BE TAKEN TO PREVENT OR MANAGE AUTOIMMUNE HAIR LOSS.

Does Autoimmune Disease Cause Hair Loss?

The answer is yes and no. There are some autoimmune diseases that directly affect the hair, such as alopecia areata. On the other side, there are some autoimmune diseases that causes hair loss as a symptom, such as Graves’ Disease. However, it is essential to know that not all autoimmune diseases cause hair loss and there might be other underlying reasons that should be checked out.

⚠️ Keep in mind that not all autoimmune diseases cause hair loss.

Is Hair Loss a Symptom of Autoimmune Disease?

Yes, in some certain autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Disease, hair loss can be observed as a symptom. However, it does not always occur and not all autoimmune causing hair loss can be observed as a symptom.

What Autoimmune Disease Causes Itchy Scalp?

Some autoimmune diseases cause itchy scalp due to irritations occurring on it. 

  • CUTANEOUS VASCULITIS
  • DERMATITIS HERPETIFORMIS
  • DERMATOMYOSITIS
  • HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS
  • LUPUS
  • PEMPHIGUS
  • SCALP PSORIASIS
  • SJÖGREN’S SYNDROME

The Difference Between Autoimmune Hair Loss and Autoimmune Diseases That Cause Hair Loss

Autoimmune hair loss is a specific type of hair loss where the immune system attacks the hair follicles. This can cause patchy or complete hair loss on the scalp or on the entire body. 

On the other hand, autoimmune diseases that cause hair loss do not primarily attack hair follicles. The hair falls out as a symptom or a complication due to these autoimmune diseases in an indirect way.

AUTOIMMUNE HAIR LOSS

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES THAT CAUSE HAIR LOSS

A specific type of hair loss

Hair loss occurs as a symptom or a complication of the autoimmune disease

The immune system attacks hair follicles

The immune system does not primarily or directly attack the hair follicles

Sudden hair loss

Slower hair loss

Hair loss in small, round patches on the scalp, eyebrows, etc.

Hair thinning

Can develop further into complete loss of hair on the scalp and/or the entire body

Usually temporary and curable

The exact cause is unknown

Can occur as a secondary symptom

What Are The Autoimmune Hair Loss Diseases?

The autoimmune hair loss diseases are:

  • LUPUS
  • ALOPECIA VARIANTS
  • DERMATOMYOSITIS
  • SCLERODERMA


These autoimmune diseases are directly connected with hair loss.

Lupus

Lupus (aka discoid lupus erythematosus or cutaneous lupus erythematosus to be exact) can cause hair loss. It is important to note that not all variants of lupus are associated with hair loss. It affects the skin on the scalp and the face.

The irritation on the skin later causes hair loss and it can even affect the entire scalp.

Alopecia

There are forms of alopecia that are autoimmune diseases and attack hair follicles directly. Might also be known as a “disease with no hair growth” in some cases. 

  • ALOPECIA INCOGNITA
  • ALOPECIA TOTALIS
  • ALOPECIA UNIVERSALIS
  • DIFFUSE ALOPECIA AREATA
  • PATCHY ALOPECIA AREATA


Some of these types inhibit patchy hair loss while some inhibit complete hair loss anywhere on the body or the entire body.

⚠️ Autoimmune alopecia diseases only affect the hair follicles, according to studies. So, they do not pose any other health risks to the person who has it, regardless of which form of alopecia they have.

Dermatomyositis

Scalp dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune disease. It affects the muscles, making them weak; and the skin.

About 30-40% of the time, it can cause hair loss. Because this condition causes a rash on the scalp, and that can irritate hair follicles.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma, an autoimmune connective tissue and rheumatic disease, causes inflammation in the skin. If the condition affects the scalp, it causes hair loss.

What Autoimmune Disease Causes Hair Loss?

Autoimmune diseases can cause hair loss.

  • RA – RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
  • HASHIMOTO’S DISEASE
  • GRAVE’S DISEASE
  • PSORIASIS
  • DIABETES
  • CELIAC DISEASE
  • SJÖRGREN’S SYNDROME


These diseases can present hair loss as a symptom. They are not directly connected to hair follicles, so they do not necessarily cause hair loss.

Ra - Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease. The body attacks the healthy cells and causes uncomfortable inflammation. In some rare cases, the body attacks the scalp, causing hair follicles to be damaged and hair to fall out.

Why do some autoimmune diseases cause hair loss but some cause RA (rheumatoid arthritis)? Autoimmune diseases like Lupus, Scleroderma, and diabetes can increase the risk of someone developing RA, but they do not directly cause RA to develop.

Hashimoto

Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune thyroid disease.

People with Hashimoto’s disease usually experience iron deficiency. That causes loss of hair.

If it causes long-term hypothyroidism, hair can fall out due to insufficient thyroid hormones, and of course, iron.

Graves Disease

Graves’ disease is another autoimmune thyroid disease. This condition causes hyperthyroidism.

Due to excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, telogen effluvium might get triggered and hair can start to fall out.

Chron's Disease

Chron’s disease is a form of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). It causes organs in the digestive tract to swell, causing diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition. All of these combined can cause hair follicles to not get enough energy and nutrients to grow hair.

Crohn’s disease can also cause inflammation of the skin. If it occurs anywhere on the body, such as the arms or scalp, it can cause hair to fall out from that area.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that causes itchiness, rash, and scaly patches on mostly scalp, elbow, and knees. The irritation can affect the hair follicles and can cause hair loss.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This disease can cause hormonal imbalances and hyperglycemia, causing hair to be malnourished and eventually cause diabetes hair loss.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks the tissues of the body when gluten is consumed. If celiac disease patients experience some discomfort, their hair follicles will be affected. 

  • DIARRHEA
  • CONSTIPATION
  • IRON/VITAMIN B12/FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY
  • SUDDEN WEIGHT LOSS
  • ANEMIA


This later causes hair to fall out, grow slower, and sometimes can cause hair to be stuck in the telogen phase (resting phase).

Sjörgren’s Syndrome

Sjörgren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the glands that moisturize the mouth, eyes, scalp, and other parts of the body. It usually accompanies rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It presents itself as frontal fibrosing alopecia. It looks like a receding hairline but can be long-term or chronic.

Where Does Hair Loss from Autoimmune Disease Start?

With an autoimmune disease, any part of the body can be affected. However, autoimmune hair loss usually starts with sudden hair loss on the scalp. It can also happen on eyebrows, eyelashes, beards, armpits, etc.

How to Diagnose Autoimmune Hair Loss

To diagnose autoimmune hair loss, your family history and medical history will be checked. And a physical exam will be performed.

⚠️ If you are exhibiting any signs of hair loss, you need to contact your healthcare provider.

There is a test for autoimmune hair loss: the ANA (antinuclear antibodies) test. Basically, the healthcare professional takes a blood sample and looks if there are any antinuclear antibodies in your system. If they are present, it can indicate that you have an autoimmune disorder such as alopecia universalis.

In short, there is a high chance that positive ANA and hair loss can be related if your results show up that way.

How to Stop Hair Loss from Autoimmune Disease

There are various treatment options that can help with autoimmune hair loss. 

  • TOPICAL CORTICOSTEROID THERAPY
  • SQUARIC ACID
  • JANUS KINASE (JAK) INHIBITORS
  • CONTACT IMMUNOTHERAPY
  • IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE THERAPY
  • PULSE THERAPY
  • METHOTREXATE

Why Fish Oil Cause Hair Loss in Some with Autoimmune?

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil cause unusual immune cell activity in the skin, leading to hair loss.

Normally, a healthy person’s body can handle this and might experience hair loss if they are consuming lots of high-fat fish. However, that might not be the case for people with autoimmune diseases as their immune systems tend to be weaker.

Autoimmune Hair Loss Diet

If you are experiencing hair loss due to an autoimmune disease, your diet should be rich.

  • ESSENTIAL VITAMINS – BIOTIN, ZINC, ETC.
  • HEALTHY FATS – AVOCADO, FISH, NUTS, ETC
  • FRUITS AND VEGETABLES THAT CONTAIN ANTIOXIDANTS
  • SUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF PROTEIN


While there are certain foods you should be getting, there are also some things that you need to avoid. 

  • TOO MUCH DAIRY
  • TOO MUCH CAFFEINE
  • FRUITS AND VEGETABLES (TOMATO, EGGPLANT, POTATOES)
  • SATURATED FATS
  • REFINED SUGAR

Is Getting A Hair Transplant A Good Idea For Autoimmune Hair Loss?

No, most of the time, getting a hair transplant is not a good idea for people with autoimmune hair loss. If you have autoimmune hair loss, a hair transplant will be the last thing –and sometimes not even the last thing– that will be suggested to you.

Autoimmune diseases that attack the hair follicles are rarely treated with hair transplant. Meaning the success rate is unequivocally low. Even after a somewhat successful hair transplant operation, hair might fall out again since the disease continuously attacks the hair follicles. So, it would be mindful to seek other more viable options to treat or manage autoimmune hair loss.

(1) Cassano N, Amerio P, D’Ovidio R, Vena GA. Hair disorders associated with autoimmune connective tissue diseases. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2014;149(5):555-565.

(2) Parodi A, Cozzani E. Hair loss in autoimmune systemic diseases. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2014;149(1):79-81.

(3) Hao J, Jin R, Zeng J, et al. Consumption of fish oil high-fat diet induces murine hair loss via epidermal fatty acid binding protein in skin macrophages. Cell Rep. 2022;41(11):111804. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111804