Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can cause many systems in the body to malfunction. Since it is a bacterial infection, it can be treated using antibiotics. The caveat, however, is that sometimes the specific bacteria that causes Lyme disease can infiltrate its way into tissues and evade the antibiotics, leaving it alive and ready to attack the body in the future.
Typical symptoms of an early Lyme disease infection include fever, chills, fatigue, and a rash that is often shaped like a bullseye. When Lyme disease goes untreated, those symptoms become much worse and can become debilitating to cope with. But what about Lyme disease hair loss symptoms? Can Lyme cause alopecia?
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is the term used to describe hair loss. The loss of hair can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most notably associated with the scalp. There is no telling how long alopecia will last in a person because the condition can be either permanent or temporary. Many things can cause alopecia, including hormonal changes, medical conditions, or aging. It is most common in men, although it can happen to anyone, and can often be hereditary.
There are many signs and symptoms of alopecia. In men, it typically begins with a receding hairline and thinning of the hair on the top of their scalp. For women, the gradual thinning tends to broaden the part in their hair. Hair loss can also be:
- Circular or patchy bald spots
- Loosening of the hair that results in clumps of hair falling out when combing, tugging, or washing the hair
- Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp
- Hair loss that occurs over the entire body
Some common causes other than those mentioned above include stressful life events, hair treatments, and radiation therapy.
Can Lyme disease cause scalp problems?
Although Lyme disease isn’t typically associated with scalp issues, the infection can cause problems with all areas of the skin. Studies have shown that Lyme disease can cause hives to appear on all parts of the body, including the scalp. These hives can be chronic or cyclical.
Lyme disease has also been associated with the development of scalp eschars. A scalp eschar is a piece of dead skin or tissue that falls off the scalp. It is most commonly seen in people with burn injuries, but it can also be brought on by a bite from an infected tick.
Lyme disease and alopecia
Many people don’t think of alopecia when they think of Lyme disease, but sometimes, the two go hand-in-hand. When the infection does cause hair loss, it often appears in patches. The hair may look “motheaten”, and could also be accompanied by lesions that are crusted over with blood. One particular study on a 21-year-old man with tick bite-induced alopecia found that it could be caused by the body’s immunomodulatory chemicals and anti-inflammatory chemicals reacting to the bite.
Lyme disease disrupts how the body functions and often leads to an increase in stress from the body trying to fight off the infection. When this happens, conditions such as a telogen effluvium can occur. A telogen effluvium is caused by stressors that lead to the roots of the hair being pushed into a state of rest. Hair is then shed in large amounts. While more research is needed to confirm just how prevalent this type of hair loss is in people with Lyme disease, it is a certainty that Lyme disease can cause alopecia to occur in some patients.
Is Lyme disease hair loss reversible?
Many of the conditions developed by Lyme disease patients are hard to treat. This is because the only way to fight the infection is through antibiotics, and even these don’t always rid the body of all the bacteria. Lyme disease hair loss, however, is one such comorbidity that can be reversed. This is because the hair follicles aren’t usually damaged from the condition. When antibiotics work and the Lyme bacteria is eradicated from the body, the hair tends to regrow within three months of treatment.
Although many people with Lyme disease won’t experience alopecia, some may find their hair begins to fall out when they’re infected. The best way to avoid hair loss caused by a Lyme disease infection is to avoid becoming infected in the first place, or to seek treatment immediately after discovering a tick bite on the body. Ticks are typically found in wooded areas, so when outdoors, it’s important to remember tick safety tips, such as covering up all exposed skin areas that could be vulnerable to a tick bite and wearing insect repellant to avoid getting bitten by a tick.
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