The chronic skin condition known as vitiligo is characterized by the selective destruction of melanocyte cells. Even though the exact cause for which vitiligo appears has yet to be identified, it is believed that it could have an autoimmune foundation. The main changes that occur with vitiligo regard the loss of pigment in different areas of the skin; the same loss of pigment is identified at the level of the eyelashes, eyebrows and hair. But can vitiligo actually lead to hair loss? Keep on reading and discover the answer to this very important question.
Can vitiligo lead to hair loss?
According to a case study published by Ayurvedic doctors from Mumbai, it is possible that loss of hair can occur as one of the manifestations of vitiligo. The presence of alopecia areata (‘spot baldness’) in patients with vitiligo has also been confirmed in a scientific article, which was published in the Jan 2010 edition of Case Reports in Dermatology. The article included a case study, presenting a patient who had both localized vitiligo and loss of hair. The authors of the article have drawn attention to the fact that alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disorder – which has a similar foundation as vitiligo.
It seems that alopecia areata is a common occurrence, in patients who either suffer from localized or generalized vitiligo. Interestingly enough, vitiligo is much more common in those who suffer from hair loss, in comparison to the general population. This poses an interesting question: does vitiligo lead to hair loss or is it the other way around? So far, this question has yet to be answered – current studies only refer to the association of these two conditions, often suggesting that vitiligo appears first and hair loss second. However, there are studies, such as the one above, which suggest a different perspective.
Hair loss, a consequence of an aggressive immune system
According to an informative brochure developed by the British Association of Dermatologist, hair loss, or alopecia areata, appears as a result of chronic inflammation. This inflammation is caused by an aggressive immune system, which practically attacks the hair that grows. As the immune system does not function properly, it makes sense that one is at a higher risk for other autoimmune disorders, vitiligo included. However, it should be mentioned that just because you are suffering from hair loss, this does not mean you will automatically get vitiligo. The percentage of people who present both of these two conditions remains generally low.
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As current research shows, it is not clear whether vitiligo leads to hair loss or not, though the two do seem to occur together. Seeking out treatment as early as possible is key, and this will include following a diet that is low in inflammatory foods and high in anti-inflammatory nutrients.
If you are suffering from feelings of low self-esteem, due to your changed physical appearance, you might also want to seek out psychological counseling or visit support groups.
(Recommended Read: Can Emotional Stress Make You Physically Ill? )