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Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Causing Your Hair Loss?

Updated on April 26, 2014
You don't want to share a shower with me. This is about a week's worth of hair loss due to rheumatoid arthritis and arava.
You don't want to share a shower with me. This is about a week's worth of hair loss due to rheumatoid arthritis and arava.

You and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Rheumatoid Arthritis and my hair

Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious autoimmune disease and has a great many effects on the body. Some of these effects can be very serious, some are more cosmetic. Hair loss is one such cosmetic complaint.

What causes hair loss in rheumatoid arthritis?

Whether the hair loss is caused by the disease or the treatments is still unsure. Many people who take methotrexate complain of hair loss. Arava (leflunomide) is an even more common cause of hairloss, and it is often more severe.

However there are also plenty of people who are not on these medications who still suffer hair loss. This is why doctors are unsure as to whether hair loss is part of the disease process, or in fact a side effect of medication.

Some people who are taking newer, biological medications, such as Enbrel or Humira and still suffer from hair loss. So clearly hair loss in rheumatoid arthritis may be part of the disease itself, or it may be a side effect of the various drug treatments.

Why does hair loss matter?

Hair loss is not dangerous. It’s not going to kill you. But when you are already suffering chronic pain from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and/or lupus, it just adds insult to injury to lose your hair. A lot of people still try to look their best, both to hide their illness, but also to feel better about themselves.

Hair is important to both men and women, but women even more so equate hair to feminity. Looking good can make you feel better about yourself, and part of looking good is having healthy, attractive hair. So if there is a way to make yourself feel better in what seems like a small way, it can make a big difference to your quality of life.

What can you do about hair loss and rheumatoid arthritis?

There as several treatments you can try. Some shampoos claim to stop hair fall, with varying degress of success. There are also spray in treatments to make your hair look thicker, but these aren’t really addressing the problem. Another common treatment is biotin.

What is Biotin?

Biotin is a B complex vitamin that is referred to as vitamin H or vitamin B7. B vitamins, in general, help in promoting healthy nerves, skin, eyes, hair and bone marrow.

Biotin is found in many meats, saltwater fish, cooked egg yolks, milk, poultry, legumes, bananas, whole grains and brewer’s yeast. You do, however, need to eat a very large amount of these foods in order to ingest enough biotin, in high enough doses, to be an effective remedy for hair loss.

It can also be bought as a supplement, which is inexpensive and easy to take, and a much simpler solution than trying to get biotin from diet alone. As well as treating hair loss, Biotin is also good to improve brittle nails, eczema , diabetes and mild depression.

Biotin is essential for healthy metabolism and an important component of enzymes in the body that break down fats, carbohydrates, and others.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hair Loss

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Are you biotin deficient?

There is no lab test for detecting biotin deficiency, so it is usually identified by its symptoms, which include thinning of the hair (frequently with loss of hair color) and red scaly rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Symptoms can also include depression, exhaustion, hallucinations, and tingling of the arms and legs. There is some evidence that diabetes can cause biotin deficiency.

Some days I get so much hair on my brush that I can't believe that I'm not completely bald.  I have about a third of the hair that I once had.
Some days I get so much hair on my brush that I can't believe that I'm not completely bald. I have about a third of the hair that I once had.

What is the recommended dose of Biotin?

There is no recommended dose for biotin. Adequate intake for adults is considered to be 30mcg daily. Dosages vary for hair loss…anywhere from 30mcg to 3000mcg daily.

Biotin is considered safe, and has been studied in doses of up to 5000mcg daily with no adverse effects.

Therefore, if you are suffering from hair loss, whether it be a symptom of Rheumatoid Arthritis, lupus or as a result of medications like Methotrexate or Arava taking a biotin supplement is a safe, simple thing to try that definitely has the potential to help.

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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Wow, this is new to me. Glad to know this. I'm not experiencing any hair loss but this is still an interesting read.

    • profile image
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      Arthritic Chick 3 years ago from Painsville

      Thanks. Hair loss is pretty common with autoimmune diseases, so the biotin is worth remembering.

    • NewLifeOutlook profile image

      NewLifeOutlook 11 months ago

      Great hub! So many people with RA experience hair loss, and it can be really emotionally difficult (for women especially) to deal with.

      Biotin is definitely a great option for hair loss. If you are experiencing hair loss, there are some other methods to protect existing hair and improve your confidence levels:

      If you notice thinning hair or patches coming out, it's also wise to avoid overworking your hair. Let it air dry and use a wide-toothed comb to get the tangles out (a light leave-in conditioner is also helpful for this!)

      Keep away from heavy products, like mousses, gels, and certain conditioners. Also, try not to pull your hair back into a ponytail or bun, as this can cause breakage.

      If you're mainly dealing with thinning hair, you could even try clip-in extensions or other hairpieces. Just ensure you're not using sew-in or glue-in pieces, as they can damage the hair even more.

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