Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Hair Loss in Women?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of common arthritis forms. It is commonly thought as a consequence of immune system abnormality, though the exact cause of this joint disease is not fully understood yet. It occurs more often in women. And there are some complications from RA. Does it cause hair loss, too?

Understanding the causes and complications of RA in general

RA is pretty common. It may be the second or third common type of arthritis after osteoarthritis (the most common arthritis form).

The way of how this joint disease acts can vary. In some sufferers, it can be mild and the flare strikes occasionally. But in other cases, the problem can be continuously active and gets worse over time.

The affected joint usually becomes swollen, tender, red, warm, and painful. All of these discomforts eventually can cause difficulty moving with the affected joint.

Typically, RA affects the joint symmetrically. For instance, if you have it in the left elbow, your right elbow will likely to have the same problem at the same time.

Ankles, knees, elbows, small joints in the feet and hand are the most common sites where RA occurs.

RA is commonly thought as autoimmune disorder. In other words, it is linked to the abnormality of the immune system, as noted before. We know well that the immune system is so crucial for the defense system of your body.

In RA however the immune system goes awry. Like most things in autoimmune disorders, with unknown reason it appears to be directed to fight against the healthy tissues (the object that should be protected in the normal function of the body immune system).

In most cases, RA occurs when the abnormal function of immune system mistakenly attack the healthy lining of the joint called synovium, causing inflammation. The inflamed synovium generate other problems in the joint such as damage to the cartilage and bone.

image_illustration277But again, there is no clearly explanation of why the immune system of the body in people with RA goes awry like that. However experts have confirmed that the following factors can increase the risk of developing RA:

  1. Gender, yap it is more likely to affect more women than men.
  2. Age factor, it can attack people of all ages, but it occurs more often in people aged between 40 and 60.
  3. It seems that this joint disease might run in family, too. Having a family history of RA can raise the risk. However some experts think that the contribution of this risk factor is small, in other words it usually doesn’t work alone.

Environmental factors such as getting exposed to certain viral or bacterial infection may have an effect, too – particularly in those with a genetic predisposition to this joint disease.

Common complications

Since RA is a rheumatic and systemic condition, there is a chance for it to affect the hair follicles, too – causing hair loss. However in general, this symptom is less likely associated with RA.

In other words, hair loss can occur in people with RA, but it is not a common problem in this kind of arthritis. Unless you doctor say that your hair loss is triggered by RA, there are other possibilities where the problem comes from and there are lots of causes for hair loss.

Instead, many times RA is more likely to be associated with the following complications:

The risk of damage in the involved joint

If the disease is not well controlled, the inflammation could pose the risk of significant & permanent damage to the affected joint. Some of this damage may include:

  1. The risk of developing raptured tendons in the involved joint.
  2. Damage to the cartilage or even bone.
  3. And the chance for bone deformities.

The risk of inflammation in other parts of the body (widespread inflammation)

Unlike osteoarthritis (OA), the inflammation triggered by RA can be systemic and therefore it may affect other parts of the body – not only the involved joint. See also the differences between OA vs. RA!

The widespread inflammation may spread and affect the following parts of the body:

  1. Blood vessels. The inflammation in the blood vessels can be a life-threatening condition if it has caused serious problem in the blood flow.
  2. Heart problems. People with RA are at high risk of cardiovascular diseases and even stroke.
  3. Eyes, causing some eye problems such as Sjogren’s syndrome (dry eyes) and scleritis (redness eye, it may be followed with pain).
  4. Inflammation in the lungs. This can cause a condition called pulmonary fibrosis. It is usually characterized by cough (especially persistent cough), shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Fortunately, with appropriate early treatment, the risk of this widespread inflammation is now less common. It’s so important to treat RA as early as possible!

The risk of other health conditions

These include:

  1. Cervical myelopathy, a condition associated with the poor function of the spinal cord. It usually occurs due to the dislocated joints at the top of the spine, causing pressure and damage to the spinal cord.
  2. Carpal tunnel syndrome, it occurs due to damage to the median nerve (special nerve that is so crucial to control movement and sensation in the hands). It is pretty common in people with RA, especially for those with RA in the wrists. See also problems of grip strength in here!
  3. Osteoporosis, a condition that can make the bone easier to fracture. Both RA and some of its treatments can pose the risk of osteoporosis.

Factors that increase your risk of hair loss due to RA

There is a chance for RA itself to have contribution in causing hair loss.

But again, generally this chance is small. Hair loss in RA is not common condition. However, there are some factors or conditions that can increase this chance.

If you have a genetic predisposition for hair loss problem

For instance, if you have both RA and inherited pattern baldness, your risk for hair loss may increase significantly. RA and its treatments in both male /female pattern baldness could accelerate the problem to occur earlier.

At early stage, pattern baldness in men is usually characterized by receding hairline, though some men start to have it with balding on top. And in women, they start to have it with thinning hair, especially at the top or the front of the scalp.

Some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis have an effect, too

RA is less likely to cause hair loss. If it does occur, the treatments for RA are more likely to have a greater role than the disease itself.

The following are some medications for RA that can pose the risk of hair loss: