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Losing Your Hair?
June 20, 2012
The relationship between a certain type of hair loss and celiac disease isn’t widely known by the general public. Recently, new research confirms that, indeed, there may be a link.
Dozens of new studies on celiac disease were presented at Digestive Diseases Week, a medical conference organized by the American Gastroenterological Association and held in May in San Diego. One of these studies focused on alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, and its association with celiac disease.
According to PubMed Health, a medical website sponsored by NIH, the exact cause of alopecia areata remains unclear. Generally, it is characterized by hair loss that occurs in patches, usually (but not always) on the scalp. It is seen in women, men and children, often with no other symptoms. The condition can run in families (approximately 20% of patients have a family history) and it can sometimes be triggered by a traumatic life event.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers at Columbia University in New York. Using blood samples from 99 individuals with alopecia areata, these researchers discovered a higher prevalence of celiac-associated antibodies in those with the hair-loss condition compared to the general population (9 percent and 3 percent, respectively).
Celiac antibodies were more likely to be present in those with more severe forms of alopecia areata, those cases involving total and/or long-term hair loss. Individuals with the least severe form of alopecia areata, with transient hair loss lasting less than a year, did not appear to have an elevated risk for celiac disease.
Could your patchy hair loss be associated with celiac disease? Ask your doctor: The study calls for celiac screening for those with alopecia areata.