Humira (adalimumab) is a popular immunosuppressant medication used to treat autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis. It works by blocking tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an inflammation-causing protein. However, hair loss is one concerning potential side effect of Humira.
How Common is Hair Loss with Humira?
Hair loss is an uncommon side effect of Humira, occurring in less than 10% of patients. However, cases of noticeable hair shedding and thinning have been reported, especially with long-term use.
There are a few factors that can contribute to Humira-related hair loss:
- It may trigger a telogen effluvium episode, pushing more hairs than normal into the shedding phase.
- By suppressing inflammation, it may disrupt normal immune signaling to hair follicles.
- Humira may allow underlying autoimmune hair loss like alopecia areata to flare up.
Those most at risk of experiencing hair shedding with Humira include:
- People with a family history of hair loss conditions.
- Those taking other medications that can cause hair thinning.
- Individuals with an inflammatory scalp disorder like psoriasis.
- People who develop a rash or skin reaction to Humira.
Onset and Duration
In most cases, hair loss begins within the first 6 months of Humira treatment. However, it may occur at any point. It often resolves within several months of discontinuing Humira if caught early. But significant hair loss may be irreversible.
Managing Hair Loss on Humira
If you experience troubling hair shedding on Humira, here are some tips to help mitigate hair loss:
Check Iron and Zinc
Get blood work to check for deficiencies in iron, zinc, or vitamin D which can aggravate hair loss.
Applying over-the-counter 5% minoxidil solution directly to the scalp may help reverse thinning and regrow hair.
Medications like spironolactone can block androgens like DHT that miniaturize hair follicles.
Improve Scalp Health
Use antimicrobial shampoos to reduce inflammation and nourish the scalp skin.
Discuss with your doctor reducing your Humira dose to the minimum effective amount.
Trying alternate psoriasis or arthritis drugs may halt hair loss in some cases.
Biotin, saw palmetto, and collagen supplements support healthy hair growth.
Use Thickening Products
Volumizing shampoos, sprays, and styling products help disguise thinning temporally.
Is Hair Loss Permanent?
For mild to moderate shedding, hair loss caused by Humira is often reversible. The key is early intervention. However, significant hair thinning that occurs for many months or years is less likely to be permanent.
The prognosis for Humira-related hair loss depends on:
- Severity – mild vs. extensive thinning
- Duration – how long hair loss has occured
- Rapidity – sudden vs. gradual shedding
- Underlying trigger – telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, etc.
Preventing Permanent Loss
To help minimize permanent balding, it's important to:
- Stop Humira as soon as hair shedding starts
- Use minoxidil, spironolactone, PRP therapy ASAP
- Optimize scalp health - reduce inflammation, improve circulation
- Be patient - hair regrowth takes time
The Bottom Line
Significant hair loss is an uncommon side effect of Humira affecting less than 10% of patients. However, it can still occur and cause distressing symptoms. Close monitoring and early intervention provide the best chances for reversing hair thinning. In severe cases, permanent balding is possible over time. Discuss all hair loss concerns immediately with your prescribing doctor.
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