Hair Loss and Other Hair Problems in Fibromyalgia

Adapting Your Hair Care and Dealing with Hair Problems in Fibromyalgia

Portrait of a young woman brushing her hair, close up (studio)
Alain Schroeder/ GettyImages

Fibromyalgia can affect everything, including your hair. Sometimes the illness itself causes changes while other times our symptoms are responsible.

This isn't an area that's been researched, which is understandable – it's not one of our worst symptoms by any stretch, and it also doesn't appear to be one of the more common ones. Other than that, though, we have to rely on the experience of others with this illness to learn about this particular problem.

Hair Loss in Fibromyalgia

Hair loss is on the symptoms list for fibromyalgia. The good news is that it's temporary: our hair falls out, and then it grows back in. The bad news is that we have no proven treatments for preventing the fall-out.

Many people with fibromyalgia report that they lose hair during times of high stress or during flares. It's common to hear about someone washing their hair only to end up with their hands covered in it. Sometimes our significant others may notice an abnormal amount of hair in the bathtub or on a pillow.

My hair stylist has frequently commented over the years that she can see a lot of hair growing in, so I must have just gone through a rough time. A lot of us notice little fuzzy-looking hairs around the hairline, or difficulty getting our hair to look smooth because of shorter, fly-away hairs that are the result of re-growth.

Scalp Pain and Fibromyalgia

A less common complaint than hair loss is scalp pain.

I've heard from some people that their scalp often feels like it's on fire and they can't even bear to wash or brush their hair.

While a burning sensation that comes and goes certainly seems consistent with fibromyalgia pain, we don't have any evidence that scalp pain is a fibromyalgia symptom. You should be sure to discuss odd symptoms like this with your doctor to see if something else could be going on.

Hair-Caused Pain

One type of fibromyalgia pain is allodynia, which is basically pain from something that shouldn't be painful, such as a loose waistband or hair brushing against the skin. Especially heavy hair can cause pain as well, just from the weight. These problems make some people decide to cut their hair short or change the style.

Other people report pain from having their hair pulled back in a ponytail or bun while hair clips and headbands may be too painful for some of us to wear.

Hair Styling With Fibromyalgia

Hair-specific symptoms can change the way we approach our hair, and so can other symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and excessive sweating.

Those wispy little re-growing hairs can detract from your hair style. Loss can noticeably thin the hair, and some people even report bald patches. Many of us have changed or adapted our hair styles as a result of these issues.

However, for a lot of us, styling our hair at all is difficult. Holding the arms up to brush, braid, blow dry or flat iron can lead to arm pain that ranges from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating. It can also lead to significant muscle fatigue.

The heat from styling implements can also trigger bouts of extreme sweating, especially on the head or face.

I've read comments from some people that they have to take multiple breaks while using these tools, so they don't just sweat away all their work.

The Significance of Hair Problems

When we have so many symptoms that can be disabling and force major changes upon us, it might seem silly or frivolous to talk about hair issues. However, the way we look can have a significant impact on self-esteem, which often takes a beating anyway when you lose abilities and independence to chronic illness. It can also be "one more thing" that illness takes away from us.

Additionally, you might be able to use symptoms such as hair loss or arm fatigue to gauge how you're doing.

For example, if you notice your hair loss increases just before a flare, then you may be able to anticipate or head off the increase in other symptoms, or at least make sure you're prepared for the flare.

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