In the world of autoimmune diseases, Lupus Alopecia emerges with multifaceted challenges. Not only does it affect the immune system, but it also leaves an imprint on different aspects of health and well-being.
Individuals dealing with it may suffer from a range of problems manifesting through physical discomfort as well as skin and hair loss issues.
However, the good news is that Lupus Alopecia is treatable, and medicinal treatments can prevent it from progressing and causing further damage. Here’s more about it.
What Is Lupus Alopecia?
Lupus Alopecia is a form of hair loss that affects hair and scalp in numerous ways. This autoimmune disease is where our immune system attacks healthy tissues (mistakenly).
As the condition progresses, it leads to inflammation and damage in different body parts. Alopecia is primarily associated with hair loss, affecting the scalp, underarms, eyebrows, eyelashes, or any body part with hair.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing Alopecia involves a combination of various approaches, including physical evaluation, medical examination, and more. Here’s an overview of the same,
✅ Clinical Assessment
The healthcare providers, ideally a dermatologist, immunologist, or rheumatologist, will enquire about the history of symptoms.
The doctor will then perform a physical examination on the scalp and other affected areas to assess the hair loss pattern.
✅ Laboratory Test
Upon observing the pattern, the doctor may suggest specific blood tests to check the markets. These tests may include anti-double standard DNA, antinuclear antibodies, and others.
Some individuals may be advised to get their CBC (Complete Blood Count) done to assess platelets and red and white blood cells.
✅ Skin Biopsy and Imaging Studies
Sometimes, the doctor may advise performing a skin biopsy to determine inflammation or scarring. This process may involve taking and examining small samples from the scalp.
Further, in some instances, ultrasound or dermoscopy may be performed to examine the scalp in more detail.
After a detailed diagnosis, the medical professional may use a multifaceted approach for Lupus Alopecia Treatment.
This process generally aims to manage the underlying autoimmune conditions and treat the visible symptoms. Here’s an overview of the same,
✅ Managing Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
The doctor may prescribe immunosuppressive drugs like corticosteroids or others. These medications help in reducing inflammation and manage the autoimmune response.
✅ Oral Medication
In several cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroid pills to suppress the autoimmune responses. Or antimalarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine to manage Alopecia symptoms.
✅ Tropical Treatment
Corticosteroid creams or ointments are applied directly to the affected area to reduce inflammation. Or Minoxidil ointments to stimulate hair growth or promote regrowth.
✅ Light Therapy/ Phototherapy
Phptptherapy to help control scalp inflammation (in some rare cases).
✅ Self-care and Lifestyle Modification
- Stress can commonly trigger lupus symptoms; thus, the doctor may recommend stress reduction techniques.
- Further, the patient may be advised to use sunscreen to protect their skin and scalp from sun rays since exposure may trigger inflammation.
- Or, if the patient is suffering from iron deficiency anemia, the doctor may also prescribe iron supplements.
✅ Supportive therapies
- Individuals with significant hair loss may be advised to use cosmetic solutions like wigs and hair pieces.
- Individuals who find the journey emotionally challenging may find support through psychological therapy.
The treatment may take weeks or months until the inflammation is reduced on the skin and even internally.
Meanwhile, the process of new hair growth may take even longer. The patient might need to visit the doctor once or twice a month for regular physical assessment followed by tests once in a while.
Causes and Triggers
- The primary cause of Lupus Alopecia is the autoimmune response observed in Lupus. In this condition, our immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells (including hair follicles), resulting in hair loss and inflammation.
- Genetic predisposition if anyone in the family has a history of developing autoimmune diseases.
- Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during pregnancy and menopause.
- Environmental factors, particularly the sun’s UV rays, can trigger the condition or sometimes even worsen the symptoms.
- Side effects of certain health conditions or medication.
- Emotional or physical stress.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the common signs and symptoms of this autoimmune disease include the following,
- Scalp inflammation in the form of itchiness, redness, and tenderness in the affected area.
- Hair loss in patches and more diffusely around the scalp.
- Hair loss in eyebrows, eyelashes, underarms, and other body parts.
- Changes in hair texture become more thin, brittle, and prone to breakage.
- Non-scarring hair loss.
- Scarring hair loss involves permanent damage to the hair follicles.
- Some Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) symptoms may include sensitivity to light, joint pain, fatigue, and skin rashes.
- Psychological impacts such as including stress, anxiety, or depression.
Managing Lupus Alopecia at Home- Is It Possible?
Although treating Lupus Alopecia requires a professional medical approach, however, specific tips can help in managing the symptoms (along with treatment),
- Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation to reduce the stress associated with hair loss.
- Engage in relaxation techniques such as gardening, reading, music, etc.
- Adopt a well-balanced, clean, and nutritious diet to support your health.
- Ensure adequate intake of vitamins and minerals, particularly biotin and iron, as they may assist hair health.
- Engage in regular physical exercise.
- Avoid using any harsh chemical products or treatments on your skin and scalp.
- Limit the use of heat styling tools.
- Follow regular scalp massage with gentle hair-growing oils (only after the doctor’s recommendation).
- Wear sunscreen and a hat to protect your scalp and skin from harsh sun rays.
- Seek support and counseling for emotional challenges that come with hair loss and other symptoms.
- Be mindful of potential triggers and avoid them at any cost.
- Hydrate yourself throughout the day with water, coconut water, fresh fruit juices, lemon water etc.
In conclusion, treating Lupus Alopecia involves a detailed approach to addressing autoimmune aspects and hair loss challenges.
This journey requires visiting a qualified dermatologist or immunologist who can address different sections for creating a holistic treatment plan.
The condition can be cured; ultimately, it is a collective effort by medical professionals and the patient. Once the condition is controlled and cured, following up with the doctor every 3 to 6 months is essential.