In this article we will be discussing on the topic “Does diabetes cause hair loss?”. There are so many reasons why you may be suffering hair loss. Could diabetes be one?. Hair loss and hair thinning could make you feel ashamed and uncomfortable in your body as hair contributes to beauty.
People with diabetes are often warned about the effect the condition could have on their toes, fingers, and rarely, on the hair. In this article, we have discussed the relationship between diabetes and hair loss. Keep reading to find out.
HOW DOES DIABETES AFFECT YOUR BODY
There are two reasons a person could have diabetes: Your body doesn’t produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes), or your body doesn’t use insulin effectively (Type 2 diabetes). Insulin is the hormone that helps move sugar from the food you eat in your bloodstream to your cells, where they are either stored or used as energy.
The body needs insulin to expel energy, otherwise, sugar would build up in your bloodstream, and when that happens, your organs and nerves suffer fatigue and may damage. The buildup of excess sugar in the bloodstream could also damage the blood vessels and when that happens, blood and oxygen supply to other parts of your body becomes limited or completely stopped.
DOES DIABETES CAUSE HAIR LOSS
Hair usually passes through three phases of growth; Growing phase, Regressing phase, and Resting phase. Usually, the growing phase could last for two or more years, hairs grow at a rate of 1-2cm per month. After the regressing phase, hair goes into resting, usually a hundred days, and after this phase, some of the resting hairs fall out.
Since diabetes can cause a limited or restricted supply of blood and oxygen to other parts of the body, the lack of oxygen can affect your normal hair growth cycle, slowing down hair growth and causing you to lose more hair than is expected during the resting phase.
Various factors can cause a person with diabetes to suffer hair loss, but some of the common ones are:
IMMUNE SYSTEM DISORDER: Diabetic patients are mostly at high risk of developing immune system disorders such as Alopecia areata and thyroid disorder.
ALOPECIA AREATA: Alopecia areata is an immune system disorder that is characterized by an accumulation of infiltrating immune cells. This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, hence creating patches of hair loss on the scalp. The amount of hair that you lose as a result of Alopecia areata depends on how many hair follicles were attacked.
THYROID DISORDER: Thyroid disorder is another autoimmune system disorder. A disruption in the normal levels of thyroid hormones can affect your hair growth pattern, which consequently could result in hair loss or hair thinning. Your doctor should be able to evaluate you to tell if you have a thyroid disorder due to weight loss, weight gain, fatigue, or nervousness.
HIGH BLOOD SUGAR: Well, just as explained, high blood sugar damages small blood vessels leading to a restriction in the supply of oxygen and other nutrients, this impacts your hair follicles negatively, causing you to lose your hair and your hair’s luster. So even the few hairs on your head may appear more brittle and dried out as a result of low or no blood, oxygen, and nutrient supply to the hair follicles.
BARIATRIC SURGERY: It is common for diabetics who undergo bariatric surgery to lose some hair following the operation. Bariatric surgery is metabolic surgery. There are different types but a particular one used for diabetes –Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The purpose of this surgery is to put diabetes into remission. This means making a diabetic’s glucose level return to normal without using any medication.
Hair loss from bariatric surgery is called Telogen effluvium, which means that the hair is in it’s resting phase. The reason a person loses their hair after bariatric surgery is because of the post-op preparations such as eating low-calorie and low-protein diets.
LOW-CALORIE DIET: Most diabetics are required to make lifestyle adjustments which include changing their diets. A very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) may seem appropriate as they promise big fast results, however, the side effect of such a diet includes hair loss.
Meeting your daily nutritional needs on a diet that is less than a thousand calories per day is near impossible, if not impossible. You are likely to be lacking proteins and iron, and your hair follicles need these nutrients to keep both scalp and hair healthy.
HIGH CORTISOL LEVEL: Cortisol, also known as stress hormone when in excess can lead to insulin resistance, hence, increased blood sugar levels in the blood vessels. Research suggests that people with Type 2 diabetes may have enhanced secretion of cortisol. High cortisol level affects hair follicles, ultimately leading to hair loss.
SIGNS OF HAIR LOSS FROM DIABETES
Hair loss can come in different patterns depending on what’s causing it. Even without diabetes, an average human loses between 50-100 hairs per day. So when and how do you know your hair loss is due to your diabetic condition?
A person with Type 1 diabetes may experience hair loss as it falls out in patches from the scalp. This may be diagnosed as Alopecia areata, and may occur either in a single episode or it may have recurrences. So it is important to know how your hair falls out because this can help your doctor make a proper diagnosis as to why you are having hair loss.
IS HAIR LOSS FROM DIABETES REVERSIBLE
Several treatments are available to help with hair loss from diabetes. Some of these treatments differ for males and females. In some cases, hair loss from diabetes can be reversed, however, most of the treatment options are temporary solutions and only work for as long as you are using them.
Nevertheless, if you have diabetes, you can slow or stop hair loss by maintaining good control of your blood sugar levels and managing stress. A person can control their blood sugar and manage stress by doing any of the following:
- Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga
- Regularly exercising and eating a well-balanced healthy diet
- Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels
- Going for counseling or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
TREATMENT OF OF HAIR LOSS FROM DIABETES
Treatment options for hair loss as a result of diabetes includes both use of medication and certain lifestyle changes, however, this depends on what’s causing your hair loss.
OVER-THE-COUNTER TREATMENT: Your doctor may prescribe a topical drug-like Rogaine to be applied to areas where there is a hair loss. Rogaine helps to keep hair growth stimulated and it is effective for scalp, eyebrows, and beard hairs. Anthralin is another topical treatment option and can be used with Rogaine.
VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS: Taking biotin will help increase the rate of hair growth, but for this to be effective, you must have first ruled out high blood sugar and any immune system disorder as an underlying cause of hair loss.
PLATELET-RICH PLASMA BLOOD-DRAWS: This is the latest approach to treating hair loss. Basically, how this works is that blood is drawn from a donor, spun around in a centrifuge, and platelet-rich plasma which contains growth factors is then collected and injected into a diabetic suffering hair loss. The collected growth factors in the platelet stimulates the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles.
HAIR TRANSPLANT OR FOLLICLE TRANSPLANT: This might seem like the best “permanent” approach to treating hair loss, however, if you do not have blood vessels that can support the new hair follicle, the treatment simply won’t be effective. So unless you’ve ruled out high blood sugar and Alopecia areata as a cause of hair loss, and you’re willing to control your blood sugar level and manage stress, this treatment option is vain.
DOES METFORMIN CAUSE HAIR LOSS
Metformin is a drug commonly prescribed to patients with Type 2 diabetes. It lowers the level of blood sugar produced in the liver and increases muscle cell sensitivity to insulin. A few scientific evidences have proven that this drug can be directly linked with hair loss.
A 2013 study suggested that the long-term use of metformin can cause a decrease in vitamin B12 and folate, essential nutrients for hair growth.
DOES DIABETES CAUSE HAIR LOSS IN LEGS
Yes, diabetes can cause hair loss on the legs, this is known as anterolateral leg alopecia. Over time, with damaged blood vessels caused by diabetes, peripheral artery disease (PAD) could be developed. PAD is the buildup of fat deposits in the blood vessels of the legs, which consequently interferes with blood flow and hair growth.
Dealing with diabetes can be very tiring, losing your hair in the process on the other hand is scary and very uncomfortable. To manage or stop hair loss from diabetes, you need to better manage your blood sugar levels by eating a healthy diet and exercising.
There are different treatment options for hair loss from diabetes, but to understand which option you should choose you to need to first understand the underlying cause of hair loss. Speak with your doctor for proper guidance.