People with Alopecia Have Other Autoimmune Disorders
In a new study from hospitals in the Partners Health Care System in Boston, 2,115 patients were seen over 11 years who had alopecia areata (AA). Most of the participants were white and female, although patients of all races and genders were studied.
AA is a common autoimmune skin disease which usually starts with small, round, smooth patches on the scalp, and it can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
Five million Americans have AA. The disease is unpredictable, and can cause hair to fall out and grow back at any time. Autoimmune means that the body attacks its own cells and tissues. Why this occurs is largely unknown.
Allergic Rhinitis, Asthma Common
Among patients with AA, the researchers found that other autoimmune diseases were common, such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, or eczema in 38.2 percent; and contact dermatitis and other eczema in 35.9 percent. Thyroid disease was found in 14.6 percent of patients and diabetes in 11.1 percent.
Other studies have found increases in these conditions among people with AA, but this study found a higher percentage.
“We found a high prevalence of of autoimmune diseases in our AA cohort [group] compared with previous studies,” the researchers report.
Patients with AA May Also Have Lupus
For example, they found that 4.3 of patients had systemic lupus erythematosus as well as AA; a previous study found only 0.6 percent of AA patients had both disorders.
Diseases not considered autoimmune in nature were discovered as well in participants. Depression and anxiety occurred in 25.5 percent of patients; gastrointestinal reflux was found in 17.3 percent.
The authors recommend that because of their study’s results, physicians should screen their patients with AA for “comorbid” conditions such as mental health problems, autoimmune-related diseases such as thyroid disease, and skin conditions such as dermatitis.
For more information on AA, contact the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.