Do Thyroid Disorders Cause Hair Loss?
Thyroid disorders may disrupt the body’s hormonal balance and cause hair loss over time. Several thyroid disorders are associated with thinning hair, and certain drugs used to treat thyroid disease may also contribute to hair loss. Furthermore, poor thyroid function is often accompanied by autoimmune disorders that may directly affect hair growth. Drugs like minoxidil are available to treat hair loss, but treating the root cause is a better long-term solution. Read on to learn how fluctuating thyroid hormones can impact the hair follicles and lead to hair loss.
Thyroid Disease and Hair Loss
Studies show that having too much or not enough of the T3 and T4 hormones can change the structure of the hair and skin. 1 The T3 and T4 hormones are collectively known as the thyroid hormones because the thyroid gland releases them. The hair grows in three phases—the growing phase (anagen), the regressing phase (catagen), and the resting phase (telogen). With ongoing research, experts better understand that thyroid hormones extend the duration of the growing phase. 1 When the thyroid hormones are thrown off balance, hair loss can occur.
The two main types of thyroid diseases are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Essentially, the former involves an overproduction, and the latter involves the underproduction of thyroid hormones. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis if you experience signs of thyroid disease, such as muscle weakness, an enlarged thyroid gland, or unexplained weight loss. Hair loss typically occurs several months after the onset of a thyroid disorder. Thyroid disease usually causes thinning at first, but severe hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism may lead to hair loss all over the scalp.
When you treat a thyroid disorder, the hair will likely regrow but may not regrow entirely. Thyroid disease takes time to cause hair loss, so mild or short-term problems with the thyroid glands typically do not affect the hair. Thyroid disease is generally treated with anti-thyroid drugs like methimazole. In some cases, radiation therapy (radioactive iodine ablation) may be used to treat hyperthyroidism. 2 An early diagnosis of thyroid disease gives you the best chance of lowering your risk of thyroid-related hair loss. However, do not pick your thyroid treatment without knowing the risks because certain anti-thyroid drugs can cause further hair loss.
Anti-thyroid Drugs and Hair Loss
Not every thyroid disease treatment increases your risk of hair loss, but drugs like propylthiouracil and carbimazole may cause the hair to thin and lose density. It is unknown whether drugs like carbimazole directly cause hair loss or the drug’s effect on thyroid levels causes hair to thin. If you encounter hair loss during anti-thyroid treatment, the hair will usually grow back after several months.
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Hair Loss
Having hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism increases your risk of autoimmune diseases, including alopecia areata. This condition involves the body attacking its own hair follicles, leading to balding and hair loss that can occur all over the body. Alopecia areata tends to cause hair loss in unpredictable areas. While this autoimmune disease is not contagious, there is a chance that children of parents with alopecia areata have an increased risk of hair loss.
Researchers have found that autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, vitiligo, psoriasis, and diabetes are often associated with alopecia areata. Of these autoimmune diseases, vitiligo and hypothyroidism have the strongest association with hair loss. 3 Although thyroid disease may not resolve alopecia, several corticosteroid medications are available to help with hair loss.
Hair Loss Treatment
When hair loss occurs, it is always important to see your doctor to diagnose the root cause. Many types of treatments, including finasteride and minoxidil, are available for different hair loss conditions. Drugs like minoxidil may be available in shampoo or liquid form. These treatment methods are typically applied to the scalp once or twice a day, depending on the severity of your hair loss. Although hair loss treatments may not work right away, most patients experience improvements in hair regrowth after six months.
If medications do not work well or cause unmanageable side effects, your doctor may recommend hair transplant surgery or laser therapy. A hair transplant surgery involves transferring hair from other parts of your head and transplanting the hair to the bald spot. This procedure is generally painful and may require sedation. A hair transplant also carries certain bruising, bleeding, and infection risks. While laser therapy involves less discomfort, more research is necessary to show its effect on hair density and regrowth.
MailMymeds offers numerous articles explaining different health conditions to help you make informed decisions regarding your well-being and treatment options. Visit our hair loss blog today to learn more about the different treatment methods for alopecia areata.
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