Autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, lupus and alopecia areata can cause hair loss through inflammation and immune system attacks on hair follicles. For patients experiencing this complication, taking steps to control their disease and limit inflammation is key to reducing hair shedding and regrowing lost hair.
First and foremost, ensuring the autoimmune condition itself is properly managed is important. This may involve medications to suppress the immune system like steroids, hydroxychloroquine or immunosuppressants, depending on the disease. Taking medications as prescribed and following up regularly with doctors who monitor disease activity and medication effectiveness can help minimize flare ups that worsen hair loss.
For inflammatory autoimmune diseases, reducing inflammation throughout the body also helps limit inflammation around hair follicles that damages them. Simple lifestyle changes can have a significant impact:
- A balanced, anti-inflammatory diet is important. This includes limiting red meat, added sugars, processed foods, and fried foods in favor of whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil.
- Regular moderate exercise can lower inflammation, improve mood, and strengthen the immune system. Even walking 30 minutes a day 5 times per week provides benefit.
- Stress management through yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises may lower inflammation by relaxing the nervous system and reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
- Getting enough, high-quality sleep also helps control inflammation because insufficient sleep signals the immune system to produce more inflammatory cytokines. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Many nutritional supplements with anti-inflammatory properties may also aid hair regrowth:
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil – Studies show they lower inflammation and help treat autoimmune disease-related hair loss.
- Magnesium – Deficiency is common with some autoimmune diseases and adequate levels are important to regulate inflammation.
- Zinc – Plays a role in proper immune function and maintaining scalp health. Deficiency can exacerbate autoimmune hair loss.
- Vitamin D – Some research suggests low vitamin D levels may trigger autoimmune diseases and supplementing may help reduce associated hair loss.
- Prescription treatments may also be beneficial – Minoxidil applied topically can stimulate existing hair follicles, while finasteride inhibits DHT linked to hair follicle miniaturization and loss. Intralesional corticosteroid injections directly into balding scalp areas can help suppress inflammation and promote regrowth when autoimmune disease is under control.
For men, a toupee worn while gaining control of an autoimmune condition may help boost confidence. However, toupees require time-consuming daily maintenance and adjustment, may not stay put during activities, and need replacement every 2-3 years.
Hair transplant surgery could restore a natural appearance for severe autoimmune hair loss, but outcomes depend heavily on getting the underlying disease under control first. Surgery is not typically recommended if inflammation from an autoimmune disorder remains active.
In summary, getting autoimmune diseases properly managed through medications and lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation throughout the body is critical for stopping autoimmune hair loss. Nutritional supplements with anti-inflammatory properties also help. Prescription treatments and localized steroid injections may aid existing hair, though achieving disease remission should remain the priority. While toupees provide an immediate solution, addressing the root causes through autoimmune disease control offers the best chances for stabilizing and regrowing lost hair over time.