Lupus and Hair Loss

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2020

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, and brittle hair are common symptoms of lupus and the side effects of some of the drugs used to treat it. In people with lupus, the hair loss is often patchy rather than consistently thin all over the head. Approximately 70 percent of people with lupus will experience hair loss at some point in the course of their disease.1-2

Why does lupus cause hair loss?

Non-scarring hair loss is reversible in people with lupus. This type of hair loss occurs because the hair follicles rest during periods of increased disease activity (flares). Brittle or thinning hair also may be caused by common lupus treatments like steroids and immunosuppressants.2

Scarring alopecia, a different kind of hair loss, occurs when lupus discoid lesions occur on the scalp. This type of rash scars the scalp, and the hair will not grow back. Scarring alopecia occurs more often in people with cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), which is a rarer subtype of lupus.2

Lupus-related hair loss is different from male- or female-pattern baldness.

Hair loss may also be caused by conditions other than lupus, such as genetics, stress, recent severe illness, thyroid problems, nutritional problems, and certain skin diseases of the scalp.

Can lupus-related hair loss be treated?

If hair loss is troubling you, seek help early. Your doctor may be able to adjust the drugs you take to try and manage your alopecia, or discoid rash if that is the reason behind your hair loss. Hair loss caused by medication is often reversible, but you may have to wait until your symptoms are under control before you can reduce your medications.1-4

You can protect your hair by washing with baby shampoo and using a leave-in conditioner with sun protection. Avoid using heated tools on your hair such as curlers, straighteners or blow dryers. Reducing stress and getting proper nutrition can help too.3

You should not use over-the-counter hair loss treatments, such as Rogaine, without talking to your doctor first.

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