Understanding alopecia and its relation with STDs

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Alopecia means bald or hair loss in layman’s language. Alopecia areata is a condition that causes patchy baldness, which can happen anywhere in the body, including the eyebrows, armpits, eyelashes, scalp, beard area, etc.

Many things can cause hair loss, including some sexually transmitted diseases. STDs like syphilis causes hair loss directly as its symptoms. This occurs when you contract syphilis, you don’t go for STD testing and leave the syphilis infection to advance to the secondary stage. 

Other STDs like HIV don’t cause hair loss directly; the medication for treating HIV is what causes hair loss. Let’s look at the relationship between alopecia and some STDs.

How to know if you are experiencing hair loss due to STD

Not all STDs can cause hair loss. But even the ones causing they mostly do not cause hair loss directly. STDs like chlamydia don’t cause hair loss, but the drug azithromycin- a common drug used to treat chlamydia by killing the bacteria causing the infection also depletes vitamin B and hemoglobin in the process leading to hair loss.

Hair loss and syphilis

Syphilis is an STD that progresses in four stages, with the first stage presenting sores or chancres in the genital area or mouth. If you don’t treat the first stage of syphilis, it can progress to the second stage, where it causes many symptoms, including hair loss if the infection affects your scalp.

This happens when alopecia causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles causing syphilitic alopecia (though rare)- this can lead to temporary hair loss making your scalp appear patchy.

Can I treat hair loss due to syphilis?

Secondary syphilis is treatable, and therefore you can treat its symptoms. After treatment and the body’s immune system has recovered fully, your hair will grow back. However, in some cases, your hair may not start growing up until you lose all of your previous hair.

HIV and hair loss

Human immunodeficiency virus also causes hair loss indirectly. This infection affects and weakens the immune system and interferes with your body’s ability to fight off infections, making you vulnerable to infections.

If you leave HIV untreated, it progresses to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other opportunistic infections.

Even though HIV doesn’t directly lead to hair loss, it increases your chances of contracting diseases like thyroid dysfunction, anemia, diffuse alopecia, iron deficiency, etc., that can cause hair loss.

In the 20th century, HIV medications were known to cause hair loss as a side effect. But, most modern medications don’t have adverse effects that can cause hair loss. Most of the hair loss in people with HIV is due to aging.

Conclusion

Alopecia is baldness or hair loss on various body parts and can be due to certain STDs, among other causes.

STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and herpes can cause hair loss indirectly as a side effect of the medications used to treat them. On the other hand, syphilis can cause hair loss directly as a symptom that occurs in the secondary stage of syphilis.