Autoimmune disease may be a cause of hair loss. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases and many of those cause hair loss. So in those cases treating hair loss means treating the specific autoimmune disease which is the culprit causing your hair fall. Unfortunately diagnosis of many autoimmune diseases is very difficult because symptoms are almost similar. Before discussing about hair fall caused by autoimmune disease, I think some words on autoimmune disease isn’t a bad idea.
We are exposed to various toxic elements and harmful microorganisms every day. Do we get sick every day? No. Do you know why? Because our body has a mechanism which can handle these foreign substances including microorganisms like bacteria. This system or mechanism is called immune system. White blood cells, bone marrow, lymph nodes, thymus, spleen all are part of your immune system. White blood cell or leukocytes play an important role in combating foreign substances and germs. This white blood cell is produced and stored in many locations including bone marrow, spleen and thymus. So white blood cell is like soldiers who protect you.
Even after organ transplantation our immune system may attack the transplanted organ; this is why doctors use drugs to suppress immune system for some period and immune system gets sometime to recognize the transplanted organ as own body part.
So why do we get ill?
Our immune system is like an army. Sometimes it successfully defeats enemy, sometimes it fails, when it fails to kill or destroy foreign substances we get ill and our doctor decides will medicine may cure the disease. Sometimes they simply try to strengthen our immune system so that we can defeat germs. That may sound very simple but finding appropriate medicine against specific toxic substance or bacteria was never easy. Luckily researchers have managed to find and manufacture various antibiotics to fight bacterial infection. This article is about hair fall caused by autoimmune diseases so I am not going to discuss about antibiotics and drug resistant bacteria here.
What if your army which is appointed to protect you starts war against you? It will be a disaster for your city or territory. Autoimmune disease is also like this. Your immune system fails to distinguish between your healthy cells and foreign substances; as a result immune system starts to attack your body. Your immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. I mentioned at the beginning that there are more than 80 autoimmune diseases. Type 1 diabetes is one of those, in this case our immune system attacks pancreas. You know pancreas produces essential insulin which breaks sugar to supply energy for your body. When your insulin level decreases your blood sugar level increases. So, underactive immune system and overactive immune system both can cause problem. Asthma and allergy both are caused by overactive immune system, because your immune system starts war against substances which are not harmful.
Till date cause of autoimmune disease isn’t understood properly. Genetics has a role and women especially African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American women have higher risk of autoimmune disease.
How autoimmune diseases affect hair
In the previous article about hair fall and growth, I mentioned that our hairs are strands of dead protein called keratin. This keratin is produced by hair follicles. Hair follicles have three stages, in its resting stage hair stops growing and eventually hair falls. After certain period that hair follicle enters into a new cycle and hair starts growing again. At any time only 10% hair follicles go through this resting stage and this is why we never become bald unless we have disease.
As I mentioned above, in case of autoimmune diseases our immune system mistakenly attacks our own body, some autoimmune diseases attack hair follicles. When hair follicles are affected our hairs are affected.
Remember hair loss may be a sign of autoimmune disease but excessive hair loss does not necessarily mean you have autoimmune disease. There may be other causes of hair loss and not all autoimmune diseases have the hair loss symptom.
Autoimmune diseases that cause hair loss
Alopecia areata, hashimoto's disease, lupus, alopecia totalis, alopecia universalis, grave’s disease, etc are example of autoimmune diseases that may cause hair loss.
Lupus: Along with hair loss symptoms of lupus include anemia, headache, fatigue, joint pain etc. Doctors believe there is environmental trigger which induces our immune system to produce antibodies which attacks healthy cell.
Hashimoto’s disease: Immune system attacks thyroid gland which is responsible for producing thyroid hormone. Low level of thyroid hormone causes many problems including constipation, depression, dry skin, weight gain and hair loss. Usually oral hormone pill is given to restore normal body function.
Graves' disease: It’s the reverse of hashimoto’s disease. Immune system induces thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone more than required; as a result body uses energy quickly. Along with hair loss symptoms of grave’ disease include increased heart beat, weakness, weight loss, etc.
As I have written full article on alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis already I am not going to discuss about those here.
Treatment of autoimmune diseases
Presently autoimmune disease isn’t curable. Doctors use drugs to treat symptoms and they also use immunosuppressive drugs so that immune system can’t attack healthy cells.
Cause of autoimmune disease
Till date there is no conclusive evidence about causes of auto immune diseases. Experts believe there may be some factors like infections of chemical exposure because number of autoimmune disease patient is on the rise. Some argue modern vaccines and antiseptics are making our immune system different from our ancestors. Now our immune system is overreacting to harmless substances, creating antibodies and those antibodies are attacking our own cells. These are only hypothesis, not proven yet.
Hair fall treatment for autoimmune disease patients
Yes it’s true that autoimmune disease can’t be cured. But it can be controlled. You know type 1 diabetes is also an autoimmune disease but nowadays diabetes isn’t a problem if handled properly. Most autoimmune diseases are also like it. Treatments are improving rapidly, with proper care and medication patients can lead a normal life. Getting back hair or stopping hair fall may not be a problem. Nutrient is a big factor. If you have severe sickness your body concentrates on supplying energy to the organs like heart, lungs and kidneys which are essential for surviving. So your hairs on scalp do not get priority because those aren’t essential for surviving.
You need to supply energy in other words nutrients to your scalp. The only way you can do this is by eating healthy & nutritious foods and controlling the disease. Already there are many drugs which are used to treat autoimmune diseases. If treated early and properly no one will notice your hair fall.