MS and Hair Loss

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord. But many people who have this condition also report losing their hair. 

There are different reasons why multiple sclerosis can cause hair loss. However, it’s not directly related to the disease itself. Rather it’s a consequence of the treatments, comorbid conditions, and stress of multiple sclerosis. 

Problems with your nutrition can also end up causing hair loss. So, while it might seem like your hair loss is due to multiple sclerosis, it’s unlikely to be the case. 

This doesn’t make the hair loss any less distressing, though. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to deal with your MS hair loss. In this guide, you’ll learn more about it. 

Does Multiple Sclerosis Cause Hair Loss? 

Multiple sclerosis does not affect the skin or the hair follicles, so it won’t cause hair loss. However, both your skin and hair can be affected by treatments for MS. 

In multiple sclerosis, the immune cells attack a protective wrapping around the nerves called the myelin sheath. 

This myelin sheath is essentially an electrical insulator. While it’s around the nerve, it prevents the current from “leaking”.

Neuron
Individual, tubular envelops of the myelin sheath are present on the neuron to help with the transmission of electrical signals

Keep in mind that this current or electrical signal is how your nervous system (brain and spinal cord) communicates with your body. 

But once the myelin sheath is damaged, their transmission will slow down or stop. And that has a whole host of consequences for the body. 

While it won’t cause hair loss, multiple sclerosis can cause the following: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Numbness
  • Weakness 
  • Pain 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Vision issues 
  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Sexual problems 
  • Cognitive issues 

Even some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can cause hair loss. For instance, even just anxiety can cause a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium

It pushes most of the hair from the active growing phase to the resting phase. Excessive shedding is the result. 

Living with MS can be very difficult because it can be both a physical and mental challenge. And that can also lead to different types of hair loss.  

What Causes MS Cause Hair Loss?

Let’s take a closer look at how hair loss can indirectly occur with multiple sclerosis. 

Side Effect Of Drugs 

Some of the medicines that have been used for the treatment of MS are as follows: 

  • Corticosteroids – reduce inflammation and shorten the length of an MS flare-up
  • Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) – also reduce inflammation and reduce relapse rates 


Among corticosteroids, prednisolone can cause thinning of the hair on the scalp. 

Interestingly, the same drug is also used for the treatment of a type of autoimmune hair loss. Still, the FDA lists hair loss as one of the side effects of prednisolone.

Medicine

But as far as the DMTs are concerned, there are many of them that can cause hair loss, such as: 

  • Interferon beta 
  • Glatiramer acetate
  • Teriflunomide
  • Fingolimod
  • Cladribine
  • Ocrelizumab 
  • Alemtuzumab

These drugs can cause different types of alopecia. For instance, there are studies that report alopecia areata associated with ocrelizumab. 

A more severe form of alopecia areata called alopecia universalis has also been associated with Alemtuzumab. 

But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, just starting a new drug can shock the system and cause temporary hair loss through telogen effluvium. This has been reported on the intake of a DMT dimethyl-fumarate. 

Other therapies and treatments for MS can also cause hair loss. Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is one example of it, which can even result in permanent hair loss. Similarly, some drugs for fatigue and depression can also result in hair loss. 

Nutritional Deficiency 

According to a study published in Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, many people with multiple sclerosis “suffer from various forms of malnutrition.” Some studies have even linked vitamin D deficiency with multiple sclerosis.

Healthy diet (2)

This can offer another explanation for why you might experience hair loss with multiple sclerosis. A healthy diet is essential for your hair growth to continue normally. 

Other Autoimmune Illnesses 

Different researches show that multiple sclerosis can coexist with other autoimmune conditions, such as: 

Many of these illnesses can directly or indirectly cause hair loss. 

Stress

As mentioned earlier, multiple sclerosis can be very difficult to live with. And the stress of the condition can also cause different types of hair loss, like alopecia areata, trichotillomania and telogen effluvium. 

How To Stop Multiple Sclerosis Hair Loss? 

If you have drug-induced alopecia due to multiple sclerosis treatment, it might be helped by switching medication. 

However, you should not discontinue any medication on your own. Make sure to consult your doctor first. It’s possible that you’re losing hair due to something else.

Hair loss (1)

Other than that, if you have a vitamin deficiency, your doctor may recommend taking supplements and changing your diet. 

You should also try different things to manage your stress levels. A healthy diet, yoga, exercise, deep breathing, meditation, massages, etc., might be able to help you. 

Is MS Hair Loss Reversible? 

Whether or not multiple sclerosis hair loss is reversible depends on the type of hair loss you have. 

Drug-induced alopecia and telogen effluvium are usually reversible. So, you’ll be able to grow your hair back

However, it can also be permanent, as can happen with bone marrow transplants. 

Conclusion 

Multiple sclerosis can be a very difficult condition to deal with both mentally and physically. And while hair loss might feel insignificant compared to it, it can be a very real and stressful experience. 

If anything, it can make feel you even worse. While the condition itself isn’t directly responsible for it, it’s usually a result of its treatment. 

Still, if you’re experiencing hair loss, don’t jump to any conclusions without consulting a qualified medical professional for an effective hair loss treatment plan

Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Cagla Yuksel.

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