Hair loss is an alarming situation with a wide variety of causes. Both men and women are prone to hair loss and it can be a permanent damage. One of the causes of hair loss is scleroderma, which is a chronic disease of the connective tissue classified as an autoimmune rheumatic condition. It is derived from two Greek words that are “skelors”, which means hard and “derma”, which means skin. The fact that it is chronic means that it cannot be cured, but it can be managed through various treatment options. In scleroderma, the immune system works against itself, resulting in too much collagen formation. Scleroderma refers to hard skin and is characterized by thickening of the skin on the arms, legs, and trunk.

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Who Can Get Scleroderma?

Scleroderma can attack anyone including young children and older adults. However, the disease is most common in people who are between the ages of 35 and 50. On top of that, women are more susceptible to the condition than men.

Can Scleroderma Cause Hair Loss?

Hair loss is a secondary reaction to scleroderma in that the condition damages the scalp by the formation of a hard skin on the surface. The surface is often a patch with stiffened fibrous tissues and inflammation in the hair follicle. Scleroderma can occur as a single linear patch on the scalp or as multiple patches on different areas on the scalp. On these patches, the spot can either be completely bald or have some shorter thinned hair, which may be present for a while before the spot goes bald. This kind of hair loss is referred to as alopecia areata. Scleroderma can also cause hair loss on your eyebrows and eyelids.

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The type of scleroderma that affects the skin and scalp is known as localized scleroderma. It manifests in different ways, and hair loss is just one of the indicating signs that a patient may be developing the condition. Some of the early symptoms of the disease include reddish patches that are made of thick skin and may take the form of an oval shape. The patches then turn white in the middle with pink-purple borders, which may result in hair loss, if they are on the scalp. At first, the symptoms may not be extreme, but as the condition worsens, the symptoms also become unbearable.

Other symptoms that you may experience with scleroderma include;

  • Small red spots on the chest and face.
  • Sores on fingertips as well as stiffened fingers and hands.
  • Painful or swollen joints, fingers, and toes.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Hardened skin that appears shiny and smooth especially on the face and hands.
  • Highly sensitive toes and fingers that may change color with the cold.

Managing Scleroderma

If scleroderma is detected early enough, then some of the damage caused by the condition can be managed. There are various treatments which can ease the symptoms, but they will not cure the condition. Furthermore, it is a chronic illness that may be present for the rest of your life. Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids offer a quick fix to the problem, which helps with the swellings and pain and offers relief to muscles and joints. You can also turn to skin treatments e.g. laser therapy which can help with the damaged skin. Exercising and eating healthier will also help in improving your overall health.

Conclusion

Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disorder, which leads to hardened skin due to the formation of excess collagen. The hardened skin can be seen in different areas of the body including the scalp, where the hair follicles become damaged. This results in hair loss in forms of patches on different areas of the scalp and can either be completely bald or not. It is important that you take sudden thinning or loss of hair as a warning sign of an arising problem, in this case, scleroderma. As much as the condition can be cured, a patient’s life can be improved by suppressing scleroderma symptoms.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 3, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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