Hair, skin and nails on RA meds

Since I've been on anti TNFs, my hair, skin and nails are all very poor condition. My hair is coming out in clumps. My nails are thin, peely and brittle. My skin is so dry despite using dermatologist recommended creams 3x a day! I use oil and vaseline on my nails and have tried every kind of supposed hair 'thickening' treatment. Nothing works!!

I assume it's to do with being immunosuppressed. I've also had virus after virus lately, which I don't think is helping.

Has anyone else experienced this? Has anything made a difference? Thanks. :)

24 Replies

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  • Hi crashdoll, its always worth checking these things out with your GP as it can be too easy to ignore symptoms and blame our meds. I had awful hair, skin and nails when my thyroid levels were too high and too low. x

  • I've had a borderline low thyroid before, so I guess it's worth getting it checked again especially as I suffer from a random but enlarged thyroid gland in my throat! Thanks. :)

  • That sounds a good idea. I was on far too much thyroxine last year but because I thought my symptoms were mtx side effects I didn't get checked out until I started fainting.

  • Hello crashdoll, I understand just how you feel, I am going through the same thing. I have the Enbrel injections, but I am also taking prednisolone and 2 weeks yesterday I started to reduce the dose by 2.5mg. My GP said it could be the steroids that are causing the side effects of my hair falling out, dry skin and brittle nails. I also have a lot of swelling in my feet, ankles and legs. I spoke with my hairdresser and she has seen this happen and advised that once I am off the prednisole my hair will grow back and become back to normal again. I am taking various medications. Good luck, I tried Argon oil which you can use on your hair, nails and skin. Yesterday, I bought ASDA own gel £2.00 you can put it on damp or dry hair, it is the first thing that actually calmed down my hair and made it look a little better without it looking greasy. Take care, I hope you are keeping free of pain. x

  • I have similar, Moroccan Oil. I tried it once but it made my hair look SO greasy, I wonder if I used too much? I'll give it a whirl again. Thank you!

  • Hi Crashdoll, I used too much the first time I used the Argon oil, 1 or 2 drops at most, I leave it on my hair for 30 mins before washing my hair and then 1 drop before drying my hair. I also mentioned ASDA's own Frizz Control Cream it smooth's, nourishes and defines enriched with macadamia nuts, I have so many broken strands of hair and this

    product does seem to help, it is early days yet. My hairdresser advised my hair will grow back once I am off the steroids. I am wondering now if it could be the Enbrel injections? All the best talking to your Rhumey Consultant or Rhumey Nurse, I have an appointment this month so I will be asking questions. Take care. x

  • I can empathise with u - I've had the same problems with 5 immunosuppressants that my rheumy consultant has prescribed in her wisdom. I'm now just over a yr in2 my 2nd round of Methotrexate (17.5mg wkly) & I'm sure that this has hâad a disastrous effect on my teeth. Saying that,I have always had weaker teeth than any1 else in the family - but my dentist assures me that I take excellent care of my teeth,yes I have fillings & crowns however,since I started bk on mxt last sept I've found that along with hair n nails my teeth hv been badly affected. I've been losing bits of teeth all over the place & even whole teeth! -When I mentioned this problem 2 the god of RA (- rheumy cons),she just swept the subject away n just wanted 2 talk about joint stiffness! The following day I was at the dentists again,having 2 plates fitted.

    Please,please get in touch with whoever is in charge of ur RA care & tell them how unhappy u are & ask them 4 alternatives. Although they come across as gods they are in fact only people & how many of them actually hv 2 hobble around in our shoes? Keep complaining if ur not happy with any aspect of ur care plan - it's u & ur body that are suffering & as individuals we all experience this affliction differently. So our treatment needs to be absolutely tailored 2 us as individuals - we have that right. If u feel that something isn't wking 4 u,ask 4 an alternative - don't let them put the frighteners on u & ultimately if u are not satisfied ask 4 a 2nd opinion.

    I wish I had - dentures hv been my biggest phobia since I was v v small & now I have 2 sets because I didn't think/believe that I could challenge the rheumy teams where I hv lived since I was diagnosed in 1986 (20yrs old) & so I am now living my nightmare!!

  • I'm sorry you're having trouble with your teeth. :( I know we are prone to tooth enamel problems too, so I see the dentist twice a year and hygienist quarterly.

    My RA is pretty aggressive, so I feel I should put up with these side effects because bone erosions are far worse for me. Lesser of two evils. :(

  • Hello what meds are you taking?

  • Humira injections, methotrexate injections, leflunomide and naproxen.

  • MTX made my hair fall out too. I had to stop taking it. The side effects outside the hair loss was not worth the meds. I switched to Enbrel about a month ago and so far so good. My hair is still shedding but not as much. I guess it takes time for the MTX to full wear off. I was diagnosed in June 2014 and started MTX July 1 and stopped after two months. My cognitive skills, my eye sight etc was too much to bear.

  • Hello,

    I know exactly what you mean about your nails as I had the same problem - in my case as a result of being on Cimzia (which I had to give up after a really awful reaction). Although it's by no means cured, I have managed to grow all my fingernails almost to the ends of my fingers, with nice white ends again, as a result of taking Biotin daily for just over a month so far.

    I'm just off to buy the next strength up (I started on 1000 units daily, as advised by my local health food shop) to see if I can get them stronger as well as longer. They still bend like tissue paper, and peel into layers on the very ends, but I am so pleased to have even-looking nails again, as I used to take such pride in them before.

    I'm afraid I haven't noticed any difference (yet?) with my very fine hair, but Biotin is supposed to help with that too. I first heard about Biotin on this site; I don't have any interest in the company. It costs about £9 a month, which I know is a lot of money, but to me it's worth it for the psychological lift of looking nice again.

  • I've heard a lot about Biotin, mostly good reviews. I shall have tp explore it. Thank you.

  • I take biotin but my hair still sheds like krazy BUT it helps tremendously with the nails. My nails are hard and grow nicely. I would definitely buy some biotin! Good luck Crashdoll :-)

  • Hi crashdoll I sympathise with you. I'm on anti-tnf as well (Enbrel) and my hair is getting thinner by the day. I've always had loads of hair, long and so thick I often couldn't put it up as hairbands were never big enough to get it all in but now I can wrap the same kind of hairband round a ponytail umpteen times... I've been on Enbrel since March and the hair seems to come out in handfuls and sometimes I struggle to hide the bald patches. The change is quite shocking and distressing though I'm glad I had lots of hair to start with.

    I keep telling myself that if I have to choose between having nice hair or being able to move then I'll go with being able to move. The Enbrel is working well now in all other respects for me so the hair loss is something I'll just have to put up with. I comb it, wash it and colour it as infrequently as I can get away with.

    Sorry for rambling on a bit without offering any solutions but I guess I was just trying to say in a round about way that if you feel the meds are working then some of these side effects are perhaps more tolerable. I've found it much harder to cope with side effects in the past when the drugs weren't providing any benefits. Are the anti-tnfs working for you? If they're not, or if the side effects outweigh the benefits for you, then I agree with Caradog that you should go back to your RA team and be strong enough to challenge them (easier said than done, I know!).

    I wish I had a magic wand that could give us all the benefits of these drugs without the side effects!

  • I'm sorry you're going through this too. My current medication combo is working well, as I said to someone else, poor hair and nails etc is the lesser of two evils.

    I wish I had a magic wand too.....!

  • Crashdoll, I am told that just having RA can cause hair loss as its a street in our system and I was told stress also makes your hair fall out. If you can, get help to determine what is causing the hair loss as it in not always the meds. However this is doctor talk.

    I think if you start taking a med and your hair falls out, then stop the Meds and it tapers off you can kinda put two and two together. I'm not a doctor but relaying my own experience.

    One you fail on certain drugs you become limited in what you can take. Often it's ones that will not only really help you but make you have hair loss and brittle nails.

    I tried biotin and it hasn't helped, I keep taking it hoping it will kick in.

    It's kind of a crappy thing, to have to choose between your hair/nails or joints. It's a tough pill to swallow. I wonder if your doc can do a med review, maby you would do better on another med. Sorry your going through this, it's not easy. Hang in there.

    ( sorry for the misspellings, it won't let me correct them)

  • I have to choose my joints, there is no competition. It is sad and difficult though. I feel like I'm making so many compromises.

    I didn't see any spelling errors by the way! ;)

  • I might be wrong about this but weren't you thought to have Lupus as well as RA? If so one of the prominent symptoms of Lupus can be hairloss. Also there's drug induced Lupus but I've only really read of this causing a butterfly rash. I've always had flimsy nails and my hair has completely fallen out several times in my life so you have my sympathy.

  • Yep, well remembered, I do have a query of mild SLE. I didn't really put 2 and 2 together. Autoimmune wise, my bloods are good and I am quite settled, so I imagine I'm just lacking in nutrients. Well, I hope anyway. ;)

  • Hope so too Crashdoll - seems most likely but I would definitely take Paula's suggestion re thyroid to the GP. Tx

  • I used to have great nails, in fact I used to be a hand model. They became thin, split & peeling with the advent of RD & I tried all sorts of potions & strengtheners to get them back to how they once were. My Consultant advised me to always wear a coat of varnish to stop them being so porous which did help. At one time they were splitting up on my nail bed & that was painful so I showed my pharmacist & she suggested I tried Dr. Lewinn's Renunail 3 step & they're back to their healthy state. It took about a month to see real improvement but I now only need to use the oil as a treatment & the strengthener as a base coat. I also don't let them get too too long & use a Leighton Denny crystal nail file which I find kinder than emery boards. They seem to grow more quickly too but I think really it's just that my nails had become so thin they wore away naturally.

  • I take a supplement called hair, skin, and Nails. My hair is still thick, my nails are growing, and my skin is much better. I still take care of the outside but the inside is important too. Fyi, doctor don't usually recommend supplements.

  • I am only on enbrel and sulpafalazine but also take a daily folic acid 5mg tablet, this seems to help.

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