Psoriasis and Hair Loss: Is there a Connection?

Merely Me Health Guide
  • We get a lot of interesting questions here on MySkinCareConnection  about a wide variety of topics on anything from mysterious rashes to how to treat head lice. At the end of each month we select a member question to be answered by our consulting dermatologist, Doctor Lawrence Green, the Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington DC.

     

    To find out more about Dr. Green please visit his website: Aesthetics, Skin Care, and Dermasurgery.

     

    This month’s skin care question comes from Member “Billerr” who asks:

     

    Q: Are psoriasis and alopecia linked together at all?

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    Dr Green:  Psoriasis and alopecia (which means hair loss) are not at all linked. People who have psoriasis are not more likely to lose hair and conversely people who have hair loss are not more likely to develop psoriasis. That said, there are many different causes of hair loss, and one of them called alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition just like psoriasis. Because alopecia areata and psoriasis are both autoimmune, some scientists have speculated that they may stem from chromosomal abnormalities that are in close proximity to each other. Abnormalities on certain areas of chromosome 6 seem to occur in several autoimmune diseases.

     

    To expand our discussion I asked Dr. Green to explain more about hair loss and how a dermatologist may help with this condition.

     

    Q: What are some of the causes of hair loss or alopecia?

     

    Dr. Green: Hair loss can be caused by hundreds of things. Some of the more common are genetic hair loss, hair loss from long term or over use of permanents, straighteners, hot combs, or hair dyes, anemia or iron deficiency, chemotherapy (and some other) medications and thyroid or hormone problems. A temporary (usually lasting less than 9 months) hair loss called telogen effluvium can be caused by stressful situations such as a hospitalization, sudden death in the family, or pregnancy.

     

    Q: What can a dermatologist do about hair loss?

     

    Dr. Green: A dermatologist can try and help you find the cause of your hair loss by talking with you, examining the scalp, and possibly performing tests such as blood tests, looking at least a dozen or more hair roots just pulled out under the microscope, or by doing a scalp biopsy. Once the cause is determined, treatment can be directed at the cause.

     

    Q: Can you tell us about alopecia areata? Is this skin condition something a dermatologist can treat?

     

    Dr. Green:  Alopecia areata is an autoimmune form of hair loss that is seen as completely hairless circular patches on the scalp that suddenly develop. Being an autoimmune condition, alopecia areata represents a mistake by the immune system because your immune system is selectively trying to destroy selected hairs (sort of like if the hairs represented an infection) in an area of your scalp.

     

    Treatment for alopecia areata is directed at suppressing the immune system response in the area of scalp it is occurring. Most commonly, topical or injections of cortisone medications put directly on the affected areas of scalp is the mainstay for treatment. Occasionally, alopecia areata can spread across the entire scalp and even the body, causing someone to lose every single piece of hair they have. Fortunately, this is rare.

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    Thank you Dr. Green for answering our questions about hair loss.

     

    For more information about alopecia (hair loss) please refer to the following resources:

     

    How Stress Affects Your Skin

     

    National Alopecia Areata Foundation

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Alopecia

     

    American Academy of Dermatology: Alopecia

Published On: November 28, 2011