Lupus is a condition in which various tissues, cells, and organs of the body become inflamed. The inflammation occurs as a result of the body attacking its own healthy tissues, cells, and organs as if they were bacteria or a disease. Although the exact cause of lupus is not known, its symptoms can generally be treated. Common symptoms include skin rashes; fever; changes in weight; swelling or pain in the joints; and alopecia, the technical term for hair loss. There tends to be a strong connection between lupus and hair loss because hair loss tends to be one of the most common warning signs that a person could possibly have the condition, even if there are no other symptoms present.
Although lupus can occur within nearly any area of the body or multiple areas at once, a large majority of people with the condition are affected on their skin. Inflammation of the skin cells can occur with lupus and hair loss may often result due to irritation of the hair follicles on the skin cells. The hair loss associated with the condition tends to happen gradually with slight thinning of the hair rather than the sudden loss of large clumps.
The connection between lupus and hair loss is generally strong in many individuals with the condition, but it is often only a temporary symptom. A person in the early stages of the condition may start to notice the hair on his or her scalp beginning to thin. He and she may also notice a thinning of the eyebrows, eyelashes, or body hair. Once a doctor is able to diagnose the lupus, the hair loss will generally subside after treatment. Less commonly, a person with the condition may develop discoid rash, or red wounds, on his or her scalp. Discoid rash can damage the hair follicles on the scalp and prevent treatment from being effective, leading to permanent hair loss.
The symptoms of lupus can usually be treated, but the condition itself does not have a proven cure. The severity of the condition can vary widely by each individual case. Lupus symptoms can appear without warning, even after treatment. Some people with the condition may experience symptoms and get them effectively treated, and then not experience any more symptoms for several years, while others may have chronic flare-ups. Patients with both lupus and hair loss may be prescribed topical corticosteroids or oral steroid medication to reduce the inflammation of the skin cells that leads to hair thinning.